Special Report

More Peking Duck

Is the Clinton campaign an influence target of Chinese criminal groups?

By 10.26.07

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When the Wall Street Journal broke the Yuan Yuen "Norman" Hsu story, some likened Norman to "Johnny" Chung and "Charlie" Trie, and wondered if the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) was passing money again to the Clintons. Now, with the Los Angeles Times' story about Clinton's fundraising in New York City's Chinatown, there's another question to consider: Is the Clinton campaign a target of Asian criminal groups looking for political influence?

On August 28, 1990, Hsu claimed he was kidnapped by Raymond "Shrimpboy" Chow. Who is Chow? In December 1992, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate, released a 59-page report entitled "The New International Criminal And Asian Organized Crime." (This document is not posted online, but is available through some libraries and from the Senate committee, 199 Russell Building, Washington, D.C., 202-224-3721.) On page 26, the document displays an organizational chart of the San Francisco branch of the international Chinese triad, Wo Hop To. Chow's name and mug shot identified him as the triad's enforcer.

At the time of the alleged kidnapping, the Foster City, California police reported that Chow and Hsu were arguing over money amounts ranging from $300K to $1 million. Did the triad bankroll the scam that led to Hsu's conviction about a year later, or was Hsu crazy enough to try to scam a triad? By now, the relationship between Hsu and Wo Hop To is probably clear to the FBI. The rest of us will have to wait until the federal suits line up behind a bank of microphones to announce their findings on the Hsu case.

Meanwhile, Chow was convicted of racketeering, underage prostitution and international heroin trade. He was released early in 2003 in exchange for testifying against his crime boss, Peter Chong, the triad's Grand Dragon.

Today, Chow works to project a public image of a reformed criminal. When she was a San Francisco Supervisor, recently elected California Assemblywoman and now Majority Whip, Fiona Ma, sponsored Chow for a "Certificate of Honor" award from the city. (A photo of Chow holding his certificate can be seen here.) Among those who contributed to Ms. Ma's recent election were Norman Hsu, Winkle Paw, Danny Lee and Yu-Fen Huang -- the last two were among a group of three from Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, who contributed $270,000 to Democrats.

On October 19, 2007, the L.A. Times broke the NYC Chinatown donations story. The reporters noted that Clinton's success in raising money from "dishwashers, waiters and street stall hawkers" is due, in part, to a strategy of forming "mutually beneficial alliances with powerful groups." Really, what sort of groups?

The L.A. Times stated that "Clinton has enlisted the aid of Chinese neighborhood associations, especially those representing recent immigrants from Fujian province. The organizations, at least one of which is a descendant of Chinatown criminal enterprises that engaged in gambling and human trafficking, exert enormous influence over immigrants." What sort of influence, and to what end?

The unnamed organization has to be the Fukien American Association. On page 22 of the Senate report, a display labeled "Leadership Structure of Primary Tongs and Affiliated Gangs in New York City" draws a line between the Fukien American Association and the street gang Fuk Ching. A map of street gang territories in a book entitled Chinatown Gangs: Extortion, Enterprise, and Ethnicity, by Ko-lin Chin (Oxford University Press, 1996) locates Fuk Ching's territory on East Broadway, near the Manhattan Bridge -- right where the L.A. Times found bogus addresses for some missing Clinton donors.

How far-fetched is the notion that Chinese criminal organizations would front for the PRC? Back on June 24, 1997, a select team of investigators from Canada's Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian Security & Intelligence Service drafted a report entitled "Chinese Intelligence Services and Triads Financial Links in Canada." The secret report, code-named "Sidewinder," concluded that three groups of recent immigrants from China were working together to "gain influence on Canadian politics by maximizing their presence over some of the country's economic levers." The three groups represented the (1) Chinese Intelligence Services (ChIS), (2) former Hong Kong tycoons with known connections to ChIS and PRC officials, and (3) "Chinese organized crime elements." (The Sidewinder document is available here and here. This writer also telephonically interviewed two persons with intimate, first-hand knowledge of Sidewinder.)

The government of Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien deemed the report to be politically incorrect -- scaremongering was the charge. Sidewinder was exchanged for a much softer version labeled "Echo." All materials related to Sidewinder were destroyed, including the private notes of the investigators. But a draft of Sidewinder surfaced in 1999. It states that "The triads, the tycoons and the ChIS have learned the quick way to gain influence is to provide finance to the main political parties." Is that what's happening with the Clinton campaign?

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck...maybe it is more Peking duck.

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About the Author

Lee Cary is a writer in North Texas.