SEATTLE -- Leaders of secret tong societies have discounted any chance of tong warfare because of the slayings of 13 people in a Chinatown gambling club last weekend.
Bill Chew, a member and former official of the Hop Sing tong, said tong leaders have met in the group's San Francisco headquarters to discuss the murders.
Chew and others have identified the two arrested suspects, Benjamin Ng and Kwan 'Willie' Mak, as members of the Hop Sing tong. Ng, 20, and Mak, 22, have each been charged with 13 counts of murder.
Most of the victims were identified by several Chinatown residents as members of the rival Bing Kung tong. However, Chew said 'that is just a coincidence. The motive was robbery.'
'I've talked to Bing Kung leaders, and I'm confident we won't have a problem, unless it's caused by outsiders,' Chew said.
'This should remain a Seattle problem, not a San Francisco problem. We don't want to increase in tension here between the two tongs,' he said.
A leader of a rival tong, called the Hop Sing the 'Toughies, the bullies.' The Seattle chapter of that tong seems to gather most of the young toughs, the leader said.
The elderly leader of yet another tong said some hotheads might try to retaliate, but he doubted that elders will let it happen.
'Superiors in the tongs will not OK anything. We don't want a flareup. All it would cost is money and lives, and we don't want that. It happened here before.'
Seattle tong wars erupted in the 1920s as part of a larger tong war that raged from coast to coast.
Seattle has four major tongs -- Hop Sing, Hip Sing, Suey Sing and Bing Kung.
The relationship of the tongs to the Chinese community is a mystery to most Western observers. Their activities are cloaked in secrecy.
When Bing Kung held its national convention in Seattle last summer, the notes of the meeting were destroyed before the convention was over.
The tongs and family organizations have been in America for as long as the Chinese. The larger tongs in Seattle report 300 to 400 members each.