A triad gang initiation ceremony was busted in Hong Kong Tuesday, with four men arrested for taking part in what police said was a rare example of the traditional ritual.
Hong Kong was once rife with triads — organised Chinese criminal groups steeped in murky traditions and known for their violence.
While it is now considered one of the safest cities in the world, several gangs still operate.
“There were people kneeling and carrying out some sort of ritual,” police superintendent Li Kwai-wah of the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau told reporters after the bust.
“It involved quite a lot of phrases from poems and relatively traditional practices — it is quite a rare sight in recent times.”
Images of the scene in local media showed a makeshift altar, complete with offerings including incense and rice wine, as well as a butcher-style meat cleaver.
Police confirmed, without elaborating, that a knife and joss paper were recovered during the raid on the ceremony, which reportedly took place in a shed in the working class district of Sham Shui Po.
Traditional triad ceremonies require recruits to swear 36 oaths and are said to have once included the sacrifice of an animal, whose blood was mixed with wine and consumed by the new members.
The best-known gangs include Wo Shing Wo, 14K and Sun Yee On, which also operate in southern China and further overseas.
Alleged Hong Kong triad boss Kwok Wing-hung, known as “Shanghai Boy”, was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of laundering more than HK$100 million (US$12.8 million).
Businessman Kwok — widely reported to once have been the head of Wo Shing Wo — grabbed headlines in 2012 after he was reportedly seen dining with a campaign director for Leung Chun-ying, then a candidate for Hong Kong’s leadership.
Kwok was again in the spotlight in 2015 when he was reportedly punched in the face by a mystery attacker while having afternoon tea at Hong Kong’s famous Peninsula Hotel.