By Iris Koh

November 20, 2021


21st NOVEMBER 2021

A lesson from Secret Societies and what it means to "protect".

When I was growing up, I enjoyed watching Hong Kong Triad movies. The Chinese secret societies known as Triads have inspired hundreds of movies, often revolving around the themes of brotherhood, betrayal, glory and dishonor. 

In these movies, the Gangsters would usually occupy a territory and then collect “Protection Money” or in Chinese what is known as 保护费 (Bao Hu Fei) from the shop owners and residents, under the guise of “protection”. 

If the shop owners / residents did not pay up, they would be threatened and sometimes beaten up for not complying. The shop owners and the residents often lived in fear and terror under the “protection” of these secret societies and gangsters. These gangsters, they had guns, they had knives and they often dominated others by their sheer numbers. Besides brute force, they behaved like they owned the persons they were terrifying and demanded obedience at all cost.

These gangsters while "protecting" their victims intimidated and confronted helpless shop owners and residents just trying to do their best to earn a living from a hard day’s work. When the gangsters came, they had to pay their dues and surrendered a large part of their day’s wages to these gangsters. Other tactics used include publicly humiliating their victims, smearing and damaging property, very much like what a present day Loan Shark may do to collect payment. 

I learned back then that Not All Protection was good and it taught me that these bad guys would cleverly use the word “Protection” and “Protect” to legitimize vile and evil deeds to render their victims helpless and fearful.
Growing up in the 1980s, gangs and secret societies were sometimes still in the news and I realized that what were in those movies were actually true in real life. It was not just fiction, but very much a part of the operatives of gangs and secret societies.

Thank God Singapore has pretty much gotten these secret societies under control. We got to thank our Government for this.

This is the end of Part 1 of my writings on “Protection”. Do stay tuned for Part 2 of my writings on "Protection." 
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