Taiwan cracks down on gangs ahead of polls

TAIPEI • Taiwanese police have arrested more than 300 suspected gang members ahead of local elections, in a crackdown triggered by concerns over the increasing involvement of organised crime in the island's tense politics.

Four of the 310 arrested are reportedly members of a small pro-China party founded by a former gang leader that regularly organises protests in support of Beijing, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory.

Police said in a statement on Thursday that they had confiscated illegal weapons and drugs following raids on 762 locations across the island in the sweep launched on Monday.

Local elections scheduled for November are seen as an important barometer of popular support for the ruling independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party or the China-friendly Kuomintang.

Former gang leader-turned-politician Chang An-lo spent 10 years in a United States jail for drug trafficking and lived in exile for 17 years in China before returning to Taiwan in 2013. He was a leader of the Bamboo Union - one of Taiwan's largest criminal gangs - before founding the China Unification Promotion Party.

Members of Mr Chang's party have been accused of attacking Taiwanese independence supporters and Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong when he visited Taipei in January last year. They also allegedly attacked several student protesters last September at a music concert.

Police also said a former senior Bamboo Union member had encouraged other gang members to take part in the China Unification Promotion Party's activities.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2018, with the headline 'Taiwan cracks down on gangs ahead of polls'. Print Edition | Subscribe