Chinese gang uses immigrants as slave labour: New York criminals make huge profits from the smuggling of illegal aliens

THE GANG that tried to smuggle 300 Chinese immigrants into New York aboard the tramp freighter, Golden Venture, may be keeping thousands of Chinese as virtual slaves all over the city, the authorities believe.

In a raid on a house in Brooklyn, police found 13 illegal Chinese in a basement used as sleeping quarters. The 13 worked in Chinese laundries, restaurants or sweat shops paying off the dollars 30,000 ( pounds 20,000) fee the gang charges for slipping them into the United States. They live in squalor on minimum diets and are regularly beaten if they default on their payments. In the Brooklyn basement two men were about to be executed for non-payment as an example to others, police said.

The police believe the Fuk Ching gang, responsible for killing half a dozen rival gang members, is involved in the voyage of the Golden Venture, which went aground off a New York beach at the weekend. Six people died in the scramble for the shore. The gang leader is Guo Liang Chi, 28, also known as Mr Kay. Three members of Mr Guo's gang, including a 17-year-old girl, were arrested after the raid on the Brooklyn basement.

Bloody feuding broke out within the gang itself last January and Mr Guo fled the country. He is described as soft-spoken, polite and slightly vain, having his hair regularly permed. This image belies his violent hold on his fellow countrymen. He is believed to be in China or South-east Asia, but in one of the internecine battles two of Mr Guo's brothers were killed and he may be back at any time seeking revenge.

The police say profits from smuggling illegal aliens into the US have made the Fuk Ching, or Young Fujianese, the wealthiest and most powerful Chinese gang in New York. The gang is also involved in smuggling guns and heroin, prostitution, gambling and protection rackets. The internecine struggle apparently was over distribution of the enormous profits.

Meanwhile, officials are trying to process the Chinese who came ashore last weekend from the Golden Venture. In theory, they can be granted political asylum. After the 1989 uprising in Peking's Tiananmen Square, the US adopted a liberal approach to granting Chinese immigrants asylum on the grounds they were being forced to undergo abortions and sterilisation in China to control population growth. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese have come into the US by applying for political asylum since 1989. In the case of the Golden Venture, however, some are expected to be deported as an example to others.

The Indonesian captain of the Golden Venture and 10 crew members have been charged with conspiracy to smuggle illegal immigrants into the US.

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