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?

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.

Jen Siska
Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow is Dragon Head of the Hung Moon Ghee Kong Tong, a fraternal organization sometimes referred to as the Chinese Freemasons.
Jen Siska
Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow is Dragon Head of the Hung Moon Ghee Kong Tong, a fraternal organization sometimes referred to as the Chinese Freemasons.

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."

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