The Triad Societies and the Gurkhas

Much of Hong Kong was run by the Triad Societies, the Chinese counterpart of the Mafia.  These cutthroats ran the drug trade and other illicit businesses, mostly from that square mile near Kai Tak airport called the Forbidden City.  The Forbidden City was completely off limits to the Hong Kong police and the Gurkha unit of the British Army defending Hong Kong at the time.

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In 1974, the time of my first Hong Kong project, the British Colonial Government had established a frontier closed area along the China border.  We could enter the area by permit only.  Our work team had permits becase we were doing geophysical work in the area.  (Note:  The area is still restricted, see Google Earth.)

We took the opportunity to drive to the famous (infamous?) Lo Wu railway bridge, the only land entry point between Hong Kong and China at the time.  This was the bridge that political and other prisoners were exchanged.  Local residents and business people who had permits would cross on its walkway at regular intervals.

It was a small, nondescript-looking bridge because very little traffic was allowed between the British Hong Kong colony and China.

At another time, as we were working on a hillside in the closed area, we heard a burst of small arms fire coming from the other side of the hill.  Out of curiosity I climbed the hill and saw a firing range, on which British Army Gurkha troops were training.  Near me was a Gurkha soldier standing guard.  I approached him and asked if he could speak English.  He said, “A little.”

He gave me the distinct impression that he didn’t want to be bothered.

(The Gurkha soldiers are Nepalese professional soldiers who operate under the command of a British officer.  They are well known for their ferocity and competency in combat.  The Gurkha soldiers on that firing range were part of the Gurkha unit that defended Hong Kong.)

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