Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Hong Kong Mafia

Just a warning - this isn't a funny or light-hearted post.

I come from New York, where homeless people begging on the street usually fall into one of two (and sometimes both!) categories - mentally ill or addicted to drugs.  This isn't always the case, mind you, but 9 times out of 10 it's what you're dealing with.  Very rarely do you see one in a wheelchair or missing an appendage.

Now I live in Hong Kong where the only people who beg on the streets are severely disfigured - I'm talking multiple limbs missing, limbs growing out of places where they shouldn't be or a head so burned that the facial features have melted away.  It's pretty brutal and I've always stopped to give money because there's no way on earth these people can have normal jobs that sustain their living expenses.  Here's a picture I found online, which is taken at a place I have to walk by every time I go into Central (at least once a week):

For all you New Yorkers, this makes the lady who wore the trash bag on the corner of 57th & 6th look like June Cleaver, doesn't it? Along this walkway, I'll usually pass 2-3 of these folks.   It just breaks your heart.

A few months back, my American friend told me that these people are "lepers" and that they all live on a leper colony and begging is how they support themselves.  So I happily continued to give money when I walked by.

Just this week another friend tells me that these people "work" for the Triad, Hong Kong's mafia.  Like most mafia organizations the Triad is into counterfeiting, gambling, extortion and prostitution.  Now I come to find out that they also pimp out these poor disabled people and take virtually all the money given to them by people like me!

My friend also said that not only do they use already-disabled people, but they've also been known to hack off a limb or throw acid on someone to turn them into one of these beggars.  My friend advised me not giving them money anymore, but then I have to wonder what happens when they don't make their quota?!

My friend (who it's worth mentioning grew up in Hong Kong) also said "you should never fall asleep in a taxi in China" because you could become a Triad victim in some way.

Before everyone starts to panic, the Triad don't mess with tourists and expats - and they especially don't mess with white women.  Like most places around the globe, you can do a lot of things to a lot of people, but when you mess with a white woman, the wrath of God (and police and community and media) comes down on you.  I don't make the rules, I just observe them.

Anyway, I know I tend to cover more light-hearted topics, but this is part of my everyday life as I pass by these people every week.  It's disgusting what people can do to each other just to earn a buck - who raised these disgusting monsters?  The question now is do I continue to give them money?  I'm really torn...

PS - Oh and contrary to the "Only in HK" tag I've given this post, the Triad are well established in major cities around the world including NYC, Toronto and LA.


  1. wow..
    thats tuggin` on heart-strings :/

  2. Hi,

    I came across your blog and read what you wrote on the Triad and how they exploit people's disabilities and pain. It is very sad that people like that exist, but we are living in an imperfect world. You asked on what you should do - if you should continue to give money or not. As a Christian I do what the Holy Spirit moves me to do, no matter how unpopular or how risky. I give the same advice to you. If you are not a Christian, do what your heart tells you to do. You can give without love, but you cannot love and not give. Take care!

  3. This is very enlightening. Thank you for sharing.

    Feel free check out my blog @: