Taiwan's Bamboo Union gang has grown from a Taiwan street gang for sons of KMT soldiers
and officials into an international criminal organization noted for drug trafficking
"The Bamboo Union was formed by KMT kids in the 1950s wanting to protect themselves
from threats by native Taiwanese kids," Taiwanese gang specialist Yang Ching
Hai explained. "The first members lived on Bamboo Forest Road in Jung Ho City,
Taipei County and that's how the gang got its name."
By the early 1960s, the aspirations of the Bamboo Union membership shifted from street-fighting
"The Bamboo Union started moving into Taiwan's illegal gambling business, and
soon took total control of it," Yang said.
By the late 1970s, Chiang Hsiao-wu, son of Taiwan's then-president Chiang Chien-kuo,
effectively deputized the Bamboo Union and another pro-KMT Taiwanese gang as defacto
instruments of foreign policy.
"[Chiang Hsiao-wu] personally sanctioned the Bamboo [Union] Gang and the Iron
Blood Patriots as paramilitary branches of the secret police, to carry out missions
overseas that might embarrass the regime if it's own agents were caught," writes
Sterling Seagrave in Lords of the Rim.
In return, both gangs were offered a share of the lucrative heroin trade funneled
into the world market by KMT elements in Thailand's Golden Triangle region.
"Thanks to President Chiang's family, the Bamboo [Union] Gang soon had gunmen
and heroin brokers based in the United States and wherever else adequate cover was
provided by a community of Overseas Chinese," Seagrave writes.
Yang estimates the Bamboo Union has a global membership of "around 100,000",
and says that the arrest of its "spiritual leader" Chen Chi-li would have
little impact on its operations.
"This is a very stable organization run by extremely disciplined people,"
Yang said. "It won't fall apart just because Chen Chi-li's in jail for a while."