Editor’s note: Last week, an official at the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office told the Associated Press that investigators had searched the headquarters of the Chinese Unity Promotion Party (CUPP) along with the residence of its leaders to determine whether the party was receiving money from mainland China.
One of the main suspects, Chang An-lo 张安乐, also known as the White Wolf (白狼 bái láng), founded the CUPP (中华统一促进党 zhōnghuá tǒngyī cùjìn dǎng) in 2004 in Shenzhen. The Party is pro-Beijing and pro-unification, and has often been accused of being a paid agent of Beijing influence, and a front for organized crime.
In a piece published by Foreign Policy titled Nice Democracy you’ve got there. Be a shame if something happened to it, J. Michael Cole argues that the Communist Party’s strategy to deal with Taiwan is “to create division and chaos in the island.” Cole calls the CUPP “one of the main vehicles” the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses to further this strategy.
White Wolf himself is a fascinating character. He was a leader of the Bamboo Union (竹联帮 zhū liánbāng), the largest triad in Taiwan. The gang has been involved in kidnapping, drug smuggling, extortion rackets, and other nefarious activities for years. In the 1980s, Chang An-lo spent time in American federal prisons on a drug smuggling conviction. He returned to Taiwan but in 1996 fled criminal charges again, and found refuge in Shenzhen, where he remained until 2013. Chang went back Taiwan that year, and has been in and out of trouble since then. The CUPP is apparently still going strong.
With the ongoing investigation into whether Chang is being funded by the CCP — he and his son were detained and then released last week — it seems a timely moment to look at Chang’s past.
In December 2000, the Washington Post published a profile of the White Wolf, by John Pomfret, author of The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom and occasional SupChina contributor. We republish that story with permission — and editor’s updates on relevant details — here now.
—Jeremy Goldkorn, Editor-in-Chief
The shady past of the Bamboo Union gang leader under investigation for taking Beijing money to influence Taiwan politics.
By John Pomfret
First published December 2000 in the Washington Post
Chang An-lo sat down to a sumptuous feast. In front of him, lobster sashimi. To his left, fat braised chunks of abalone. To his right, a massive bowl of shark fin soup with angel-hair rice noodles.
“Big Brother Chang,” one of his guests intoned. “It is good to see you so healthy!”
Chang is one of the most wanted men in Taiwan, sought by the island’s criminal investigation division for the past four years for alleged involvement in organized crime as a leader of the Bamboo Union gang, a mafia-like organization that claims 15,000 members. He has already served seven years in three U.S. federal prisons for a 1986 conviction for conspiring to traffic in heroin.
But in China he walks free. Although his activities might be anathema to officials on Taiwan and even in Beijing, the Chinese capital, here in Shenzhen, just north of Hong Kong, his ties to Taiwan and to potential dealmakers and smugglers abroad make him a potential ally to the rich and the aspirant rich alike.
Taiwanese gangsters living large in the P.R.C.
Chang’s presence underscores an uncomfortable issue in a rapidly changing China — ties between organized crime figures and the Communist Party. Much has been written about the nexus in Russia of organized crime figures and the oligarchs who grabbed much of the wealth after the fall of communism. China faces the same issues, although its Communist Party remains in control of the country.
The ties were dramatized last week when an official Chinese newspaper reported that Mu Suixin 慕绥新, the mayor of Shenyang, a major city in northeastern China, was under investigation for his links to Asian gangs called triads. Mu has resigned. [Editor’s update: Mu was later found guilty of taking bribes and corrupt activities and given a suspended death sentence. He died of cancer under detention in 2002, according to Chinese Wikipedia. ] A Shenyang deputy mayor, Ma Xiangdong 马向东, has already been arrested and accused of gambling $4.8 million in public funds in Macau, a former Portuguese territory in southeastern China that is a hotbed of gangster activity. [Editor’s update: Ma was executed for corruption in 2001, entering the history books as Jiangsu Province’s first recipient of the lethal injection, also per Chinese Wikipedia.]
In another case, the head of China’s military intelligence, Maj. Gen. Ji Shengde 姬勝德, has been sentenced to 15 years for his involvement in organized criminal activities involving Lai Changxing 赖昌星, the alleged boss of a smuggling racket worth billions and closely connected with criminal organizations in Taiwan and Hong Kong, according to a Hong Kong-based newspaper whose report was confirmed by Chinese officials. Lai subsequently fled to Canada, where he is fighting deportation. [Editor’s update: In 2011, Lai was extradited to China and in 2012, sentenced to life behind bars for smuggling.]
Taiwanese police estimate that at least 192 outlaws, including some convicted criminals, are hiding in China, mostly in Dongguan, Guangzhou and Shenzhen in Guangdong province; Xiamen and Fuzhou in Fujian province; and Shanghai, and on Hainan island. Many are still directing their henchmen in Taiwan, and some have collaborated with mainland criminal rings to conduct cross-strait drug trafficking or human and firearms smuggling.
The White Wolf in Shenzhen
Chang said in an interview that reading and writing are his main activities here in Shenzhen. But the Chinese police said he has continued to run extortion rackets. Last year, they said, they stymied Chang’s attempt to monopolize the sale of rice to hundreds of factories run by Taiwanese businesses in southern China — an attempt Chang acknowledged but that he depicted as just a business deal gone bad.
Chang’s politics make him an attractive ally to Beijing despite his record. Born in Nanjing in 1948, one year before the Communist takeover, Chang is a committed proponent of Taiwan’s reunification with China. In his spare time, he is working on a logo combining the flag of the People’s Republic of China with that of the Republic of China.
“One country, two systems is a great idea,” Chang said, repeating the formulation of the late senior Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping. “It is the way forward for Taiwan.”
Chinese police say they have not dealt with Chang mainly because they have not been able to build a case. “It’s a problem of evidence,” said Sun Biao, a senior police officer in Shenzhen. But others have a different explanation: “It’s a question of guanxi,” said a Chinese security official, using the Chinese word for connections.
On a recent evening, Chang certainly had powerful guests. Sharing his fishy feast were the son of a man who is arguably the Communist Party’s senior theoretician and the son of the former dean of the Communist Party School. They, too, called him “Big Brother Chang.”
On that night, they were talking not theory, but business.
“So how do you think we can get a monopoly in garlic?” was one question.
The White Wolf in America
In 1986, Chang had his 15 minutes of fame in the United States, where he was known as “White Wolf.” He was one of nine men convicted on drug and racketeering charges for their part in a Taiwan-based international crime ring, the Bamboo Union gang, which according to U.S. and Taiwanese court records also carried out a politically motivated killing in Daly City, Calif., in 1984. The victim, Henry Liu, a crusading Taiwanese American journalist, had written an unflattering biography of Chiang Ching-kuo, Taiwan’s president at the time. Court cases in the United States and Taiwan showed that officials in Taiwan’s military intelligence service ordered his killing.
Chang served time in three federal prisons — in Leavenworth, Kansas, Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Oakdale, Louisiana — and then made his way back to Taiwan, where he became involved in the construction business.
By 1995, Chang was having problems with the law. He traveled to China in June 1996 to check out a possible investment in a wig factory. He returned home, but after a warrant was issued for his arrest linking him, local media said, to a debt scandal, the murder of a Taiwanese legislator and construction fraud, he fled to China.
Chang said he got into trouble over a government plan to offer amnesty to members of organized crime in exchange for confessions and a promise not to engage in further illegal activities.
“I thought it was bogus,” Chang said. “I thought it was like China’s Cultural Revolution, where they wanted people to draw a line between enemies and friends. I wouldn’t do it.”
Chang said he refused specifically to agree to a Taiwanese government ban on contacting his friends in organized crime, including Chen Chi-li 陈启礼 a.k.a. King Duck (鸭霸子 yā bàzi). Chen fled in 1996 for Cambodia, where he is said to be engaged in smuggling drugs, jewels and guns. [Editor’s update: Chen remained mostly in Cambodia until 2007 when he died of pancreatic cancer in a Hong Kong hospital.]
“These people are my friends,” Chang said. “Would you abandon your friends?”
A gang family tragedy
In April 1998, Chang’s son was stabbed to death following a fight with a member of the Four Seas gang in an elevator at a Taipei karaoke club. More than 2,000 gang members, politicians, businessmen and entertainers from around the island gathered at Taipei’s Second Funeral Parlor to pay their respects. More than 40 lawmakers and celebrities sent flowers. The funeral cortege, which included about 70 Cadillacs, stretched more than a mile.
“I cannot deny that I have influence,” Chang said, “but I never used my influence to commit crimes.”
He acknowledged being involved in a gang when he was a teenager. Since then, he said, despite a lengthy rap sheet in Taiwan, he has been misunderstood. He denied he ever committed crimes in the United States.
Like many alleged Taiwanese gangsters, Chang retains a keen interest in politics because politics and organized crime have a long, intertwined history that precedes the ascent of the Chinese Communist Party. His knowledge of modern Chinese history is deep.
“Reading and writing, that’s going to be my future life,” Chang said in an interview. “I’m planning my memoirs.
He said that he resents the police probes in Taiwan and China, and that his main source of income is the wig factory — $1,250 a month.
“Some officers try to look into my financial situation,” he said. “They think I have made money here. There have been too many rumors. They think I deal drugs or smuggle.”
There are some signs that time might be running out for Chang. In November, Chinese authorities quietly arrested and expelled a senior Taiwanese gangster, Yang Kuang-nan 杨光南 , a leader of the Four Seas Gang ( 四海帮 sìhǎi bāng ). Police in Shanghai arrested Yang while he was having dinner with eight companions in a noodle restaurant. [Editor’s update: In 2001, Yang was sentenced to 22 months in prison.]
“We welcome Chang An-lo to return to Taiwan and face the law,” said a section chief of Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Division.
Replied Chang An-lo: “When the time is right.”
Recent updates on the White Wolf
- June 16, 2018: ‘White Wolf’ presents Mayor’s Award at Taipei elementary graduation ceremony, causes outrage / Taiwan News
- August 7, 2018: Prosecution probes sources of pro-China party’s funds / Focus Taiwan
- August 10, 2018: ‘White Wolf,’ son released, blast judicial system / Taipei Times