Eng Suey Sun Tong
The Eng Suey Sun Tong is a tong with its origin in San Delfina Chinatown. The tong was founded in 1873 in San Delfina and continues to exist to this day. The Eng Suey Sun Tong is the only remaining tong in San Delfina.
In the 1850’s, an influx of Chinese migrant workers moved to the United States to help construct the Transcontinental Railroad. After the Transcontinental Railroad was completed, many migrant workers flocked to other industries such as the garments industry and the farming industry.
The Chinese brought a strong communal and paternal culture from pre-revolutionary China to the United States. In 1873, three brothers from Hong Kong that moved to San Delfina founded the Eng Suey Sun Tong. They all worked at a laundry facility and established the tong as a sort of “union” to facilitate other Chinese workers in their stay at San Delfina Chinatown.
The Eng Suey Sun Tong continues to exist to this day as a benevolent organization registered with the Chamber of Commerce. It is no longer a secret society. Post World War II and the ‘90s each resulted in additional influxes of Chinese migrants. In each of these waves of immigrants, the Eng Suey Sun Tong established itself as a crucial wayfinder abroad. They continue to assist and represent Chinatown business owners and also have a fraternity acting as a workers’ union of Chinese American laborers in the San Delfina blue collar industry. The Eng Suey Sun Tong also made it its mission to preserve Chinese culture and Chinatown history in San Delfina.
The Eng Suey Sun Tong is a well-preserved organization with a considerable following in San Delfina Chinatown. For the past decades they have played a crucial role in mobilizing Chinese American voters in district representative elections. They have also played a crucial role for Democratic candidates in mayoral elections and Congress.
The Eng Suey Sun Tong has gained much loyalty from Chinatown residents by playing a significant role in preserving the ownership of Chinatown real estate to locals and battling gentrification. The rise of real estate pricing and rents have been a significant problem since the financial crisis of 2008. Much real estate has moved into the hands of corporations, with many apartments being converted into office complexes for the neighboring financial district.
The Eng Suey Sun Tong has received numerous sizable donations from the Chinese American elite to support the tong’s mission of preserving Chinese American culture – and namely San Delfina Chinatown’s reputation as a Chinatown.
After the financial crisis of 2008, the Eng Suey Sun Tong was subject of a scandal when some of their Chinatown properties became involved in the revelation of a Chinatown heroin trafficking ring. The regional FBI office busted several criminal figures reportedly related to the overseas Wo On Lok, revealing a heroin and money laundering scheme operated from several properties in Chinatown and upstate among which a laundry facility in Yale Street, Chinatown owned and rented off by the Eng Suey Sun Tong.
No probable cause was constituted by the authorities to link tong officials to the incident, but the tong’s reputation took a considerable hit as tong officials made an effort to keep the incident away from the media. According to tong lawyer Maurice Lee they did this because: “the organization didn’t want to fall victim to the media trying to confirm the negative stigma of tongs, Chinatown and Chinese Americans as a whole”.
Because the Eng Suey Sun Tong has a strong reputation among locals and has strong political influence, the tong has after the financial crisis of 2008 fallen victim to overseas criminal influence. The explanation for this is that the Eng Suey Sun Tong suffered financial bad weather after the financial crisis of 2008 and an on-going trend of decreasing memberships, and thus donations. Tong officials have therefore become susceptible to donations from illicit sources in order to fund their benevolent activities and the tong has effectively become a real estate investment group for overseas Chinese elite to park their money into a system of private ownership.
A majority of board members currently represent not only Chinese American stakes, but have also come to represent the stakes of individual factions such as the Wo Hop To, the late 14K Triad, the White Tigers and recently Wo On Lok. To avoid conflict, the triads have agreed to elect a chairman that does not prefer one faction over others, and therefore elect the most neutral chairman.
The Eng Suey Sun Tong operates from their headquarters in Yale Street, Chinatown. The headquarters serves as the “living room of the neighborhood”.
Structures and organization differ among tongs. For the Eng Suey Sun Tong, a group of chairmembers elect a chairman every three years to maintain its neutrality.
The chairmembers fulfill their own stakes, although several corrupt chairmembers are influenced by triads. Those chairmembers aren’t necessarily initiated into the triads. Some are mere affiliates in order to maintain public neutrality.
There’s a gentleman’s agreement among triads the chairmembers will always vote to elect the most neutral chairman.