Mon, Apr 04, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Triad cleaver attack highlights growing HK mafia problem

DPA , HONG KONG

They are famous for exacting ruthless retribution with razor-sharp meat cleavers, but their bloody feuds have until now been confined to fights between rival gangs.

Now, there are fears that Hong Kong's triad gangs are tightening their grip on the city after a brutal attack on a Westerner who had fingers slashed off and suffered deep wounds to his legs and arms.

British financial consultant Ben Ford says the trauma of the clinical 15-second attack during March's Rugby Sevens tournament has made him consider leaving the former British colony.

The attack -- arising from a case of mistaken identity -- is the first of its kind on a Westerner since Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Police are particularly concerned because it happened during a showcase sporting event which draws thousands of visitors to Hong Kong from around the world.

Triad gangs, responsible for 3 percent of all Hong Kong crime, normally keep their feuds between themselves and detectives are worried that the attack signals an increase in gang activity.

Police figures show that crimes involving triad gangs -- Hong Kong's equivalent of the mafia -- has shot up by 120 percent since the beginning of last year.

Speaking from his hospital bed Ford, 32, from Cornwall, said his ordeal changed his view of the place he had come to see as his home since arriving from Britain seven years ago.

"I've not made my mind up over whether this will make me leave, but it has certainly tarnished my view of Hong Kong," he said.

Ford was leaving a Rugby Sevens party where he had been working as a volunteer barman shortly after midnight on March 21 when he was attacked by three men wearing masks who dragged him out of a cab.

Without saying a word, the hired yobs rained blows on his arms and legs with 12-inch meat cleavers -- the favored weapon of triad gangs -- and left him bleeding on the pavement.

His little finger, three quarters of his ring finger and part of his right hand were completely sliced off, and he had cuts up to three inches deep in his right calf and top of his left thigh. One of the fingers was found in the back of the taxi.

The attack is understood to have been sparked by the ejection of another 24 year-old British man from the Rugby Sevens party venue because he was drunk.

The man's Chinese girlfriend allegedly telephoned a gang of thugs with instructions to "carve up" one of the bouncers. She has been arrested and charged with criminal intimidation. None of the attackers has been caught.

It is believed Ford was mistakenly attacked because he was wearing the same T-shirt as one of the bouncers.

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