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NEWS: Murder at the Rio
It was 1987. Gordon Campbell was mayor and Vancouver’s 1029-member police force struggled with an all-out gang war among immigrant Asian youth.
Newspapers of the day chronicled the growing sense of panic at the shoot-em-up rampages, extortions and kidnappings that read like something out of the Jazz Age.
Experts opined that teachers, principals and cops weren’t doing enough to reach out to newcomers from “The Orient,” and feared alienated and isolated immigrants would only continue to feed gang violence as the Asian population increased.
The three major gangs at play were the Red Eagles, the Viet Ching and the Lotus-Jung Ching Gang. But alarms were sounding over a rise in activity in the Clark Park Gang, the Big Circle and Los Diablos. They all used a common tactic — recruit isolated immigrant kids from East Side schools and get them to carry out the dirty work. A murder sentence for youth would max out at three years, if they even served it. The older gang heavyweights would promise to intimidate witnesses and police routinely found that after a shooting, no one would talk.
That all changed with the high profile case of William (Wing Hang) Yeung. On January 23, 1987, the 16-year-old immigrant from Macao and aspiring member of the Viet Ching strolled into an Asian cinema at Commercial and Broadway accompanied by an alleged senior gang member who promised him that his street value would skyrocket if he carried out the attack.
The Golden Princess was a regular hang out for Asian youth and on that night the audience included one Tony Hong, 14, a member of the rival Lotus-Jung Ching. As Hong sat watching the film, Yeung walked down the aisle toward him, leaned over the seats and shot him point blank between the eyes with a .38-calibre Rossi pistol before calmly exiting the theatre through a side door by the screen, according to news reports. Police caught up with him three hours later at his apartment. He was sound asleep.
Miraculously, Hong survived but lost his right eye. So brazen was the attack, Yeung was tried in adult court, found guilty of attempted murder and sentenced to eight years incarceration. He was released on day parole after four years and ordered deported to Hong Kong in 1993. Police and lawmakers hailed the successful prosecution and deportation as a major stride in combating the violence.