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Group Profile: Taiwan: Bamboo Union Maintains Status as Taiwan’s Largest Gang

Highlights -The Bamboo Union gang originated as a street gang in Taiwan, formed by young rebels who joined forces to fight local rival gangs -Years after its inception, the Bamboo Union gang emerged as Taiwan’s largest gang and despite police crackdowns, remains a powerhouse in Taiwanese organized crime -The overwhelming attendance at the high-profile funeral of Chen Chi-li forced the international community to recognize the continued operations and power of the Bamboo Union gang From Street Gang to Stronghold in Taiwanese Organized Crime The Bamboo Union gang, also known as United Bamboo and Zhu Lien Bang, was founded in the late 1950s in a Taipei suburb by Taiwanese youth. Many of the street gang’s initial members were sons of senior officials in Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomingtang (KMT) army who had encamped in Taiwan rather than being crushed by Mao Zedong’s advancing communists. Uninterested in the political pursuits of their fathers, the young rebels joined forces to fight other gangs along Bamboo Forest Road on the outskirts of Taipei. In the decades following its inception, the government was more concerned with political dissidents than street crime and, as a result, the gang was able to grow and prosper. The gang is not strictly hierarchical in structure. It is divided into 24 separate tongs – types of social organizations. By maintaining strict organization and a dispersed power structure since its origin, combined with the lack of community and government intervention, Bamboo Union quickly became Taiwan’s largest gang. More importantly, as the gang grew, so did its criminal repertoire. At its peak in the early 1980s, Bamboo Union had up to 40,000 members in Taiwan and its criminal enterprise included gambling, prostitution, extortion, drug trafficking, bribery, kidnapping and paid assassinations. In recent years, intermittent police crackdowns have reduced the gang’s membership to approximately 10,000. One of the most infamous police crackdowns on Taiwanese organized crime occurred in October 2007 on the eve of the funeral for a notorious Bamboo Union crime figure. Bamboo Union was the target of the crackdown and 6 leaders of the gang’s branches were apprehended. Over 900 alleged gangsters were arrested in total, and while not all members of the Bamboo Union gang, all would be charged under the Organized Crime Prevention Act. Death of Crime Boss Gives Bamboo Union Gang Global Notoriety The Bamboo Union gang was thrust into the media spotlight in October 2007 when one of the organization’s most infamous crime bosses, Chen Chi-li, 63, died in Hong Kong of pancreatic cancer. Widely regarded as one of Bamboo Union gang’s most important leaders, Chen began his life of organized crime in the 1950s. Nicknamed Dry Duck and later King Duck, Chen was among a group of teenagers who founded the Bamboo Union gang to fight rival gangs. In the late 1960s, Chen assumed the top leadership position and under his authority Bamboo Union gang was transformed into one of the nation’s largest criminal organizations. Despite time in prison and rehabilitation, Chen maintained a position of respect and authority within the organization. Chen Chi-li gained global notoriety in October 1984 after murdering dissident Chinese-American writer Henry Liu in San Francisco, California. In his writings, Mr. Liu exposed the power struggles in Taiwanese politics. However his murder occurred before he could complete writing a critical biography of then-president Chiang Ching-kuo. Chen was arrested in Taiwan one month later during a crackdown on criminal gangs. At his trail, Chen adamantly vowed that he had carried out the murder at the request of Admiral Wang, the head of the Military Intelligence Bureau, who suspected Liu of spying for Taiwan, China, and

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