China Town

On This Day in MN History: Tong Violence Erupts in Minneapolis

On October 30, 1924, the city of Minneapolis was disturbed by a brazen act of violence rarely seen outside major Chinatowns.

Local laundry owner Wong Si Wing was critically wounded in a shooting at his small shop on Third Avenue South.

This attack stemmed from a deadly tong war between Chinese immigrant groups that had until now been confined to the coasts.

On what had begun as an ordinary evening, Wong was working alone when an unidentified gunman appeared at approximately 9 p.m.

After a brief interaction, the assailant fired two shots at point-blank range, injuring Wong in the abdomen and hip. The shooter, described only as a short man in dark clothes, quickly fled the scene.

Wong had anticipated potential trouble from the warring tongs, a type of Chinese merchant organization.

A loaded shotgun was reportedly found stashed in his laundry’s back room. But Wong’s foresight could not prevent this brutal ambush.

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History of Chinese Tongs

Tongs originated in 1700s China as fraternal organizations and guilds protecting members against oppression.

The earliest tongs were formed in Fujian province by groups like scholars, actors, and craftsmen who were excluded from prestigious clubs.

When Chinese immigrants came to America in the mid-1800s, they established local tongs in Chinatowns across the country to provide support.

Over time, many tongs became involved in criminal activities like extortion, gambling, and opium trafficking as they competed for profits and territory.

Midwest Invasion

Before this incident, tong violence had rarely touched the predominantly peaceful Midwest.

The close-knit local Chinese community adhered to the Tong code of secrecy, refusing to identify Wong’s attacker or aid police. This would prove a major barrier to solving the case.

On that autumn night in 1924, Minneapolis received its first glimpse of the tong wars wracking Chinese districts back east.

Wong Si Wing became an unwitting victim caught in the crossfire of forces he little understood.

A Community Rattled

But the attack rattled the small Minneapolis Chinese community and shattered its sense of security.

The city was abruptly confronted with a new threat from afar, one that would require overcoming complex cultural obstacles. Wong’s life and those of his fellow immigrants would never be the same.

The incident was first reported in the Rochester Daily Post and Record. Pub Date October 31st, 1924.

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