The Tongs come from ancient China on Earth-That-Was. The word “tong” is innocent enough, meaning “hall,” or a place to meet and talk. The original tongs began as business or social organizations for Chinese men. When the Chinese immigrated into the West, the tongs provided an extra measure of security for the immigrant, giving him a “family” that would protect his interests in a strange land and unfamiliar culture.
Problem is, this meant that rival tongs would often clash-—a business deal gone sour, a dispute between families—-and they would settle the matter with bloodshed. Traditional rivalries also caused wars to break out between the tongs, some of whom have been enemies for centuries. Many tongs got wrapped up in lawless activities-—running illegal gambling concerns, brothels, and opium dens-—gaining for themselves a criminal-minded reputation.
The tongs continue to operate in a not-so-different way to this day. To their credit, tongs help their own members, whether they are rich or poor; speaking up for them when they are in trouble with the community or helping out if they get into disputes with rival tongs. Still, human nature being what it is, the traditional hatreds and feuds carry on, and have even grown stronger. Some of the tongs are mightily involved in various illegal dealings throughout the system. Tongs have a strong presence on the outer worlds, where they can operate openly, as opposed to the Core worlds, where they tend to keep a low profile. It is said, though (however quietly), that their influence can be felt even in the Halls of Parliament.