While most Tongs are benevolent groups, basically a Chinese version of the Chamber of Commerce and the Elk Lodge, some of them became involved in criminal activities. Some of the Tongs copy the structure and/or traditions of the Triads. The Tongs in the Chinese diaspora in the Anglo-speaking nations of the West served as the unofficial government of the Chinatown. The residents of the Chinatown turn to the Tongs for help, and law enforcement often treats them as the defacto regime in their Chinatown.
The hierarchy of a Tong consists of the president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer with various elders and public relations administrators. Tongs have initiation ceremonies similar to that of the Triads and pay respect to the same gods as the Triads. In the criminally-influenced Tongs, the leader was known by the Chinese gangs in Chinatown as the "Ah Kung" (grandfather) or the "Shak Foo" (uncle).
The gangs which answered to the Tong had a familial structure influenced by Confucianism. Leading the gang was the "Dai Dai Lo" (big big brother) who is the one who communicated with the Tong leader (the Ah Kung). Under him were the "Dai Lo(s)" (big brothers) who served as his lieutenants. Leading the cliques of the gang were the "Yee Lo" or "Saam Lo". At the bottom of the totem pole were the gang bangers, the "Ma Jai" (little horses).
Rules and norms existed that governed the gangs. Which included respecting the ah kung or shuk foo, not using drugs, beating up members of other gangs who were on your turf, following the orders of the dai lo, and not betraying your gang. The consequences for violating the rules was being punished, sometimes in a severe manner as in a physical assault or death.
The criminally-inclined Tongs were all involved in illegal gambling (clubs and lotteries). Depending on the Tong they might also have operated brothels, trafficked in heroin, smuggled illegal aliens (Chinese), and/or were involved in loansharking. The Chinese gangs who worked for the Tongs mainly ran protection rackets, acted as muscle for the Tong, corned the illegal fireworks business, and provided security for Tong gambling clubs and brothels. If the Tong was involved in heroin trafficking or people smuggling, then they worked as in those operations. Dispute over territory and criminal rackets between the Chinatown gangs was normally resolved via the "kong so" (process of negotiations).
In the Sixth World, there are criminally-inclined Tongs in both Great Britain (London, Manchester, & Nottingham) and in what used to be the United States in California (Los Angeles and San Francisco) and Seattle. The most powerful Tongs are in Great Britain, where they dominate organized crime. The ones in Seattle were absorbed by the Yakuza in the early part of the 21st century.
When it comes to cyberware, the Tongs like the Mafia usually relies on second-hand cyberware unlike the Triads or Yakuza which usually have access to brand new cyberware straight from their connections in the corporations. The rackets that the Tongs are usually involved in are drug dealing, gambling, BTL chips, guns, prostitution, and extortion. Tong soldiers are often expert martial artists, many of them are physical adepts. Businesses which defy the Tongs are attacked by Tong soldiers with hacking weapons or they are firebombed. In the underworld they are notorious for their cruelty and use of torture.
If there are any criminally-inclined Tongs left which have not been absorbed by the Triads it is most likely to be in the same cities where they have existed since the late 1800s. San Francisco and Los Angeles have been noted in lore as having tongs during at least the first half of the 21st century and into the 2050s. When it comes to the other cities, New York City is the most likely to have tongs followed by Boston, and further down it would be Phoenix, Chicago, Dallas, and Houston. It's noted that Seattle had Tongs but they were absorbed by the Yakuza, and the remnants formed a new Tong that acts as a pro-Chinese policlub.
Chinese Tongs were actually the earliest organized crime syndicates in the United States. They ran protection rackets, gambling, prostitution, and opium dens in the Chinatowns of the West during the mid to late 1800s. They also brought into the United States both opium and Chinese migrants, had a white slavery network across most of the western United States, and waged "Tong Wars" for control of those rackets.
Due to anti-Chinese racism (fears of the Yellow Peril) that led to murderous anti-Chinese pogroms in several towns, anti-Chinese regulations in most cities and towns, and finally the anti-Chinese immigration laws the Tongs went into decline and most of them died out. Therefore it fell to the Italian and Jewish gangs of the 1920s to establish the "National Syndicate" and for the Italians their nationwide organization (La Cosa Nostra) which came to dominate the National Syndicate and eventually take it over. In the late 20th century, there were criminally-inclined Tongs that were based in New York City, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. The most powerful of which were the New York tongs of which the On Leong Tong with 5-6,000 members and operations from coast to coast in the early 1990s was the most influential.
- ↑ Shadows of Europe p.196
- ↑ London Sourcebook p.49
- ↑ London Sourcebook p.117-118
- ↑ California Free State p.62-63
- ↑ California Free State p.104-106
- ↑ Underworld Sourcebook p.30
- ↑ Chrome Flesh p.38
- ↑ Prime Runners p.68
- ↑ London Sourcebook p.49
- Shadows of Europe, 196
- London Sourcebook, 49, 118-118
- California Free State, 62-63, 104-106
- Prime Runners, 68
- Wikipedia: Tong (organization)
- Los Angeles Times: On Leong Tong
- New York Times: Organized Crime in NY City's Chinatown
- New York Times: Benny Ong, Chinatown Godfather
- USA Today: Ghee Khung Tong of San Francisco
- United Nations: Tongs and Gangs
- History Channel: Gangland, Season 2 Episode 2, Deadly Triangle (San Francisco Gangs & Tongs)