Police begin probe into Bamboo Union after airport clash

INVESTIGATION: A police source said the move comes after the gang has stepped up its political activities to win politicians' protection

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sun, May 08, 2005 - Page 2

The police have launched an investigation into the activities of Bamboo Union, the nation's largest gang, according to a National Police Administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The probe comes after police arrested several Bamboo Union members for their involvement in violent clashes at CKS International Airport on April 26, when Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) left for China.

The police source said gangs have recently stepped up their involvement in political rallies in a bid to win protection from influential politicians.

"Organized criminal groups have appeared at political rallies in recent years," the police official said. "They think if they protect those parties in rallies, [the parties] can protect them from being charged with crimes."

Pro-China stance

Of Taiwan's gangs, the Bamboo Union, which is composed largely of Mainlanders and has a history of links to the KMT, has become most involved at political rallies, the official said -- motivated in part by its strong pro-China stance. The union opposes the Taiwan independence movement.

Police last week arrested two Bamboo Union gangsters, Chang Hun-ko (張恆國) and Wu Gin-chen (吳敬臣), on extortion charges.

Police also arrested Chu Chia-hsun (朱家訓), the former head of the union's Tiger Division, for allegedly leading gangsters in attacking pan-green supporters at the airport. Chu is currently being held in custody. Chu was also arrested last year after reportedly leading a riot in the wake of the divisive presidential election in March.

The officials said that Chu and his ex-wife, Wang Lan (王蘭) have led gangsters to most of the pan-blue camp's rallies. Both were arrested in October 2003 for organizing the nation's first all-female gang, the Phoenix Corps, consisting of more than 100 young women, mostly high-school students.

Police said Chang Hun-ko was the union's Lion Division (獅堂) leader, and Wu Gin-chen was the boss of the union's Xiao Division (孝堂). Police said Chang and his gangsters won many construction contracts by threatening and intimidating other companies into withdrawing their bids.

Chang beat up the owner of a company in Kaoshiung who refused to withdraw from a bid, police said. Wu Gin-chen was accused of intimidating companies into giving the gang protection money, police said.

gangster politicians

The official said the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) used to include some gangsters-turned-politicians, the most notorious being Pingtung County Council speaker Cheng Tai-chi (鄭太吉), who got the death penalty for his crimes.

He said Cheng went all out to campaign for Wu Tse-yuan (伍澤元), the KMT's candidate for county commissioner. In that election, he said, Cheng sent his gangsters to threaten supporters of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) -- now DPP Chairman -- and won the election with questionable tactics.

Wu was convicted of corruption and fraud for his involvement, as a then-KMT member and director of the Taiwan Provincial Government's Planning and Development Department, in a kickback scandal over the 1992 Sipiantou water-pumping station project for Taipei County.

Cheng was arrested for the murder of Chung Yuan-feng (鍾源峰), his partner in an illegal gambling den, the official said.

He said that while local gangsters such as Cheng have traditionally entered politics purely for profit, Bamboo Union gangsters were also driven by pro-China ideology.