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Head of Chinatown Social Club Slain After Meeting

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The president of a Chinatown social club was shot and killed after the group’s meeting Thursday night, according to police.

Phillip Toy Lieu, 44, of Baldwin Park was leaving a meeting of the Hop Sing Tong, a private club that has been in Chinatown since 1876, when he was shot repeatedly in the head by another member about 9:30 p.m., police said.

Police said Danny Lee, also known as Danny Kit Li Chi, 34, followed Lieu down the stairs of the group’s three-story building and fired at least seven shots from a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol, striking Lieu as he walked through the second floor of the building.

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Lee, of Rosemead, fled and is at large, according to Detective Jim Tiambo of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Asian crime investigation section. Tiambo said a motive has not been determined for the shooting, and that Lee was driving a 1989 yellow Isuzu Amigo, with California plates 2RWP156.

Lieu had worked at the Eldorado casino in Gardena until September, and was a well-known gambler who may have been in debt, according to a police source. Known in Chinatown for his flashy appearance, Lieu was wearing a four-carat diamond ring, a diamond bracelet and a gold Rolex watch and had several thousand dollars in his pocket when he was slain, the police source said.

Calvin Fong Chao, a member of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Assn., an umbrella group for the social clubs, said Lieu came to the United States from China more than 30 years ago and once owned a Chinese restaurant.

Police said it is not known whether the shooting was related to events at Thursday’s meeting. About 20 people attended the meeting to elect new officers, at which Lieu won another term as president.

Lee was not an active member of the group, but occasionally attended meetings, police said.

Hop Sing Tong is one of many tongs, also called benevolent associations, founded by Chinese immigrants in the second half of the 19th Century. Hop Sing Tong began in San Francisco in 1870 and opened its Los Angeles chapter six years later.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Chinese immigrants relied heavily on groups formed along family or hometown ties to find jobs or places to live.

Tongs served those who did not belong to groups formed by extended families or immigrants from a specific part of China.

The membership and influence of tongs declined by the 1950s as immigrants became more settled and discriminatory laws were overturned, transforming the groups into largely social clubs.


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