Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow’s gangster past in History Channel documentary

Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow in a History Channel documentary

Of all the cast of characters in the scandal encircling Sen. Leland Yee, none is more colorful and intriguing than Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow.

The former Chinatown gang boss is interviewed extensively in this episode of the History Channel’s “Gangland,” embedded below. It traces Chow’s history -- from the first time he knifed someone when he was nine years old, to the story of his rise to power, running a criminal empire from Chinatown with ambitions to engulf the United States. 

He came to San Francisco in 1977, and as a high schooler (at Galileo) he shot a boy “in the ass.” He left school and trained hard, learning to fight, eventually rising to leadership in the Hop Sing Boys gang. He was present for the Golden Dragon Massacre, a shooting between rival Chinatown gangs that left five dead. In 1986, he was arrested for robbery, and was released in 1989. 

That’s not even the start. 

In 1991, a gangster named Peter Chong was sent from Hong Kong to San Francisco to extend the reach of the Wo Hop To Triad. He enlisted Chow as his right-hand man, and together they extended the reach of the Wo Hop To across the Western United States. 

Chong dreamed of Wo Hop To ruling the United States in an all encompassing gang named the Tien HaWui, “The Whole Earth Association.” Chong and Chow planned to take over the entire Asian criminal underground -- this is supervillain stuff right here. Who’s buying the movie rights?!

But it was Boston, of all places, where Chong and Chow met resistance. After a botched assassination attempt on a Boston-based Chinese crimelord, law enforcement finally caught up with them. Chow was arrested, and Chong evaded the police for some time but eventually was extradited to the US. The tale is a fascinating peek into the underground gangs of the US, and Chinatown in particular. 

Chow was released in 2003, where the documentary’s narrative ends, but the story we know eventually picks up with the federal complaint that led to his and Senator Leland Yee’s arrest.

We’ll let you take a look for yourself below, but we’ve selected our top five favorite “Shrimp Boy” quotes from the episode for you here:

On power:

“I run this city. Who can tell me something I can not do? Nobody.” 

On the pleasures of crime:

“You make so much money you don’t even want to count it.  I’m not thinking  I’m God, but in this city, I’m the one that calls the shots.”

On his time in prison:

“I did time with Charles Manson, a good friend of mine. Kimball, a serial killer. I did time with a bunch of amazing people. Each person you talk to you learn something from. Ain’t no stupid people inside the prison, you can say that.”

More on the pleasures of crime:

“We’d go to bed with seven girls. Ain’t that fun? I mean, Can you handle seven girls at one time? No. But you have that feeling that you own the world, that’s what everybody’s looking for.“

Recruiting new members after one of his rival gang leaders was killed:

“After he passed away, they all joined with us, I just told them, you know, I’m not here to take your stuff, try to dominate you. You need money, we support you, you need dope we supply you, you need soldiers, you have soldiers. Everywhere you go you’ve got friends. Why not?”

On being betrayed by his former boss:

“My tears started dropping out. I didn’t even realize it. I didn’t even realize it. It’s not you getting soft. It’s just that kind of pain, you just don’t know how to describe it, you know.”

Watch the video below.