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Enter the Dragon Head 

Raymond Chow says he's left his gangster days behind to help bring peace to Chinatown's streets. Is he for real?

Wednesday, Aug 1 2007

Page 4 of 4

But Chow has once again found himself under fire. "We have a suspicion," Special Agent Chinn told KPIX last year after Leung's death. "We don't have proof. That's the test. We've never been able to get enough evidence against him or his gang to prosecute him for a couple of unsolved homicides in San Francisco."

Chow isn't the only one under suspicion. The day after Leung's murder, an anonymous caller to the worldwide Sound of Hope radio station said, "You want to know who killed Allen Leung? Call Chinese Consulate and Chinese Chamber of Commerce," according to the conservative John Birch Society publication, The New American. Leung was an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party. He was also involved in a lawsuit with tong members in New York.

Hundreds gathered at Leung's funeral in Chinatown. One mourner in particular stood out: Raymond Chow. Chow showed up wearing a crisp white suit surrounded by black-clad mourners. He was one of the few called by name to bow in front of Leung's casket, a sign of honor, and spoke briefly before he and the other members of the Hung Moon Ghee Kung Tong bowed in unison.

Chow says wearing the white suit wasn't a power play, but rather a sign of "the highest respect." He adds that family members, those closest to the deceased, often wear white to the memorial service or funeral to show respect. "At that time, I'm representing my tong," he says.

Chow declined to discuss the investigation into Leung's death, saying he didn't want to interfere with law enforcement. He also stressed that he's just asking for police to be fair with him, rather than try to blame him for any and all crimes in Chinatown. He has no interest in going back to jail, he says, and is determined to "walk straight" and not fail the people who believe in him. As evidence, he offered that he now often walks alone along the streets of Chinatown, rather than with the huge group he always had surrounding him in his gang days. "When you walk straight, you don't have to look over your shoulder," he says.

But he does take some precautions. His black Mercedes, complete with leather seats and a sunroof, has additional safety features. It's bulletproof.

At the recent Fourth of July picnic hosted by United Playaz, Chow had barely walked in the door when a teenage boy rushed up and gave him a hug.

"That's our future," Chow said.

Jeremiah Español, 15, said that hearing Chow speak at gang-prevention events has taught him "we can change." He added that he's been staying out of trouble, and trying to teach his "gang-banger" friends to unite rather than fight each other.

Chow said he doesn't try to tell teens like Jeremiah what to do, but shares his story and encourages them to think carefully about the choices they make. He encourages them to stay in school rather than drop out like he did. "I don't know how to read, how to write, I don't have no education," Chow said.

Rudy Corpuz Jr., the founder of United Playaz, believes Chow has changed a lot of young lives by sharing his story and encouraging youths without judging them. "He's a dragon warrior," Corpuz said. "I fell in love with this homeboy. I did, man."

But Chow says kids just like someone who respects them enough to be honest with them about life on the streets, and are smart enough to know when they're being lied to. Of course, that can make for some awkward interactions. "Sometime I ask the kids [what parents have said about me] and they say, "You used to chase people in Chinatown with machine guns.'"

His response: "That was a long time ago."

He adds that police have been asking his friends plenty of questions about him. And last year officers searched his tong headquarters as well as the Hop Sing Tong building, and took out boxes of documents from each. Still, Chow insists he isn't worried because he and his tong are devoted to peace and love, and he's got nothing to hide.

I asked if he's afraid that somebody, maybe Chong, would send people to try to hurt him. He says people have tried, but nobody has been able to "swallow" him yet. As Chow and I walked along Washington Street one afternoon last month, he seemed more concerned about me than getting whacked by Chong's men. The wind had picked up and fog was blowing in, and he suggested that I wear a coat to keep warm. If anything, Shrimp Boy is a gentleman.

Still, he insists that he hasn't really changed much from his gangster days.

"I cannot say that I'm the good person," he says. "But I can tell you I'm not the bad person, either."

About The Author

Mary Spicuzza


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