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Businessmen warn of second exodus of Chinese from T&T

Sunday, July 30, 2017
As crime rises, sales down...
FLASHBACK: A crime scene investigator places markers near spent shell casings left behind by gunmen who killed Chinese nationals Shiri Zhao and Yanil Gu in Marabella on June 15, 2017. PHOTO: TONY HOWELL

If further attacks continue on Chinese people living in T&T there may be a second exodus of this group of people from the country similar to what occurred during the Black Power revolution in 1970. This was the opinion expressed by several Chinese businessmen.

According to one local-born Chinese businessman, “During the Black Power riots many Chinese businessmen closed up their businesses and sold their properties cheaply. They migrated to Canada after they were threatened to be killed and molotov cocktails were thrown into their stores and shops, and one of the saddest things was many of them were born here.

“Some of us are afraid that it may happen again and also with the July 27, 1990 coup, it’s in some people’s blood to threaten to kill, loot and burn down Port-of-Spain again. We can’t survive something like that again. It’s not worth your life or your family’s if you have small children,” one businessman said.

Another Chinese businessman, however, felt they were not specifically targeting Chinese people despite several killings of Chinese nationals.

He said in most cases they were random attacks and there was the perception that all Chinese people in T&T had money, did not fight back and were “soft” targets for criminals. The businessman said Chinese businesses that opened late were at high risk to be robbed.

He said businesswoman Yang Zeng, who was killed during a robbery at her grocery in Santa Cruz, might have retaliated when the bandits attacked.

The businessman felt the attacks were not ethnically motivated, but were attacks on business people in general. He said if the opportunity arose to rob people presented itself, the bandits will do it.

Another Chinese businessman claimed, however, that several years ago when a Port-of-Spain businessman shot and killed two bandits who repeatedly robbed his establishment, some members of a gang with an Italian name, which the dead bandits belonged to, vowed to indiscriminately kill Chinese people in drive-by shootings in retaliation.

The businessman said the situation in the country was going from bad to worse, and several stores in the malls were closing down. He said the country was in for a rough ride, the oil economy will be hit hard as more alternative fuels, hybrid and electric vehicles become more commonplace.

The businessman said they were experiencing the negative impact now—their stores had goods but nobody was buying, “they want to buy but they don’t have money”. The situation is very grim.

the National Operations Centre (NOC) Commander Garvin Heerah says law enforcement authorities must investigate whether there is the existence of a Chinese mafia or Triad gangs operating in T&T.

He was speaking in response to the violent crimes, killings and kidnappings, perpetrated against several Chinese nationals.

Heerah, senior lecturer at School of Accounting and Management (Anglia Ruskin University, UK), said, “The recent visibly disturbing rise of Chinese businesses and enterprises is proof that there is a striving economy, be it legit or illegitimate.

“The targeting of Chinese nationals cannot be perceived to be a petty gang activity or opportunistic crime only. There are big players behind this who are controlling the Chinese business industry.

“The Chinese Triads were a known Chinese mafia syndicate for transnational organised crime, specialising in racketeering, illegal gambling, prostitution, extortion and kidnappings, narco and arms trade, corruption of public officials, import and export enterprises and pseudo business establishments, where there was a legitimate business establishment to the front and a clandestine operation behind false walls and hidden rooms.

“The Chinese Triads operated with a strict code of conduct, if someone violated this the result can be death, a manner of death that will send a message and tear at the heart of the innocent.”

The regional security expert said the authorities cannot deny there would be extortion, robberies, kidnapping and petty crimes. T&T is in a crime-dominant society and crime today is a business, so criminals will always prey on the potential targets, but there were major players in the higher echelons of crime.

Heerah asked whether the Triads can be existing here in Trinidad because of the sudden rise in Asian businesses and be utilising the “muscle” of the low-level gangster or criminal to carry out their instructions?

Heerah said law enforcement agencies must understand they are dealing with a transnational issue and therefore they must firm up their approaches and strategies from an international bearing, inclusive of intense investigative work, financial intelligence and overcoming the language barrier.

He said the Triads were a very well-oiled machine, parasitic and preyed on the vulnerability of countries with weak border control and questionable immigration armour.

In countries with large Chinese populations, a trademark of a Chinese Triad execution in the old days was to dump the naked body with the “offense” committed against the Triads written in large red Chinese characters in a very public place.

Criminologist and principal, Caribbean Institute for Security and Public Safety Ian Ramdhanie said it was safe to assume that the Chinese Triads were here.

He said they may not be involved in all of the attacks on Chinese nationals, but they were here in Trinidad plying their trade.

Ramdhanie said Triad gangs were outlawed in China and other Asian countries but had been finding ways to exist and infiltrate other borders.

He said the Triads were heavily involved in drug trafficking, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal money lending, illegal casinos and many more illegal activities.

Ramdhanie said there was a proliferation of Chinese related activities across Trinidad, many or most of them may be legal, but there will be others that will be a front for criminals.

Ramdhanie said there was no doubt that certain members of the Chinese community were under attack. He said people of Chinese origin were being targeted, this had been increasing over the years and if not addressed urgently, the attacks will intensify.

He said he was not saying that members of the Chinese community were being targeted more than the African or East Indian community, but they were being targeted more when compared to years gone by.

Ramdhanie said that it was likely that other smaller ethnic communities who were in T&T may be additionally targeted as well in time. These included the local Whites, French Creoles, foreign expats, Syrians and Lebanese.

He said the Chinese in Trinidad had been a small, quiet, docile community working hard and playing their role in the nation.

Ramdhanie said it was a matter of time that the criminal elements went after the Chinese after the major ethnic groups, Afro, Indo and mixed had been victimised by the criminals.

He said this was a wake-up call for the other smaller ethnic groups.

Ramdhanie said the criminals were doing their homework, they are researching who to target next and the Chinese were perceived as soft targets to go after.


n June 27: Businesswoman Yang Zeng, 33, robbed and shot dead in her grocery in Santa Cruz.

n June 15: Businessman Shirui Zhao, 32, and Yanli Gu, 29, gunned down in the car park of Kosume bar, New Haven Avenue, Marabella.

n June 13: Francis Lee Lon, 67, and his wife Sylvie, 77, robbed at their Fourth Street, Barataria home by three men. The couple handed over cash and jewelry valued at $13,530 and were tied up. They untied themselves and alerted the police. The three bandits and getaway driver were held and the stolen items recovered.

n November 2016: Restaurant owner Wei Hui Zhu, 31, of Soledad Road, Claxton Bay, was robbed of $400,000 by three armed men dressed in police tactical gear who entered his home. Six police officers were later held for the robbery.

n June 2016: Rich Knights Huang, 22, was at his Bel Air, La Romaine, when he was attacked by four masked men armed with a gun and a cutlass.

He was struck on the head by one of the bandits and a vault containing $80,000 was stolen.

n February 2016: Xing Xia, 30, was shot in her right eye during an attempted robbery at the family-owned CNA supermarket in New Grant. Eight months later, there was a second robbery at the supermarket and on this occasion three men were held.

n January 2016: La Horquetta businessman Chong Cao, 30, was gunned down outside his restaurant off South Tumpuna Road, La Horquetta.

n April 2015: Hi Hong Huang, 35, was fatally shot outside his business, Happiness Supermarket, off the Southern Main Road, Curepe, as he was entering the premises from a panel van which he had parked with a sum of money in a box. Four people, including two women, were held for the murder.

n October 2012: Xino Seu, 44, walked out of his business in Tacarigua and was confronted by a man armed with a knife who demanded cash and valuables.

There was a struggle and Xino was stabbed twice in the neck and had to be hospitalised.

n October 2012: Chang Xia Oseng, 33, became the fourth Chinese person to be murdered for 2012 when he was fatally shot inside his business the Golden Girl Chinese Restaurant.

n September 2012: Three people were robbed by two thieves, one armed with a gun, at Flourishing Supermarket at Cipero Road, Retrench Village, San Fernando. Li Mei Xia, 31, was robbed of $1,500 cash; Ma Jing Shun, 43, was robbed of $2,900; and Wei Chao Hong, 43, was robbed of $3,500 worth of cigarettes.

n July 2012: Wu Xiu Hua, 60, was shot dead by a bandit at her business place Tiger’s Chinese Restaurant in Cunupia.

Her husband Yang Jiang Hua, also 60, was also shot in the incident and died at hospital the following day. The family of the murder victims had announced plans to return to China. The Chinese Embassy issued a statement appealing to the government “to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of Chinese nationals and their properties in Trinidad and Tobago.”

n January 2012: Yu Quan Ue, 22, was killed following an argument outside Wing Hong Restaurant, in Chaguanas.

n April 2011: Happy Garden restaurant owner, Xue Hua Shan, 31, was abducted a few metres from her Seventh Street, Barataria home. Eleven days later, Anthony Chin, 61, was shot dead in front his restaurant, The China Palace, Ellerslie Plaza, Maraval. At the time police had linked both cases.


Ramdhanie said there were many things that can be done to deal with the targeting of Chinese in Trinidad by local criminals and also to deal with the Chinese Triads.

In dealing with the local criminals targeting Chinese he recommended:

1. The police should work closer with the local Chinese community and build strategic lines of communication where issues like crime prevention strategies are shared.

2. The Chinese community should engage in many avenues of personal and private protection like what other communities were doing such as installing CCTV cameras, private security, utilise cash-in-transit systems, don’t keep cash on premises, and improve building perimeter security.

3. The Chinese should meet with other ethnic and national groups to see how they were dealing with being targets of criminal activities.


1. Pass specific laws to make triads illegal, to detect and to prosecute them.

2. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Many countries and states for example have established departments and units to deal specifically with the triads. (Canada, Boston, Texas, Amsterdam). We need to have these experts here working alongside our own experts to deal with this problem.

3. We need a special unit with representation from the various government departments and ministries to be established to look at this matter on an ongoing basis such as National Security, Legal Affairs, Attorney General, Finance, and Labour.

4. We need to strengthen against the illegal entry of Chinese people. The airports, seaports as well as the immigration department must all devise special policies and procedures to deal with this.

5. Institutions like the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), company registry, banks, Central Bank must have policies to detect and prosecute elements of the Triads from doing business in T&T.

6. The Triads have the ability to bribe from the highest to the lowest in a country and organisation to get their way. There are things that can be done to treat with this. Do it!


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