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Why triad gangsters may have attacked pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters

Hong Kong police continue to investigate the motive behind a violent attack against pro-democracy protesters at a subway station in the Yuen Long neighbourhood over the weekend. Some of the attackers were masked individuals, wearing white shirts and armed with rods, and are believed to have connections to triads, powerful organized crime syndicates in Hong Kong.

The attack, which left dozens injured, followed the latest pro-democracy rally that day where more than 100,000 people demonstrated. That protest took a violent turn as police launched tear gas at protesters. During that protest, some demonstrators directed their ire at China, pelting its office in Hong Kong with eggs, spray-painting a wall and defacing the Chinese national emblem

Yet some pro-democracy activists are accusing government officials of being behind the suspected triad attacks, accusations authorities have rejected as groundless.CBC News explains who the triads are and their possible connection to government officials.Triads are organized criminal syndicates founded in the 17th century in China that have a “strong patriotic doctrine and emphasis on such values as loyalty, righteousness, secrecy and brotherhood,” says T. Wing Lo, a professor in the social and behavioural sciences department at the University of Hong Kong.

But over the past two decades, according to Wing Lo, who specializes in Chinese organized crime and triad societies, many of their rituals and secret initiation ceremonies have been simplified or abandoned. Meanwhile, the traditions of “brotherhood and loyalty have more or less disappeared or have been modified,” he co-wrote in an article titled: How Triad Societies Respond to Socioeconomic Change.

Some of the triad societies include the 14K, the Sun Yee On and the Wo Shing Wo. They are involved in different forms of violence and street crime in Hong Kong. Those crimes include extortion, blackmail, protection rackets, illicit internet gambling, narcotic trafficking and loan sharking.

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