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Page last updated at 10:25 GMT, Monday, 26 April 2010 11:25 UK

Taiwan politicians mix with gangsters at mafia funeral

Funeral procession for mafia boss Lee Chao-hsiung
Security was high as thousands turned out for the funeral

Senior Taiwanese politicians were among those attending the funeral of one of the island's most prominent mafia bosses on Monday.

Taiwan's parliamentary speaker and city mayors mixed with gangsters at the service for Lee Chao-hsiung, who died of cancer last month.

Organisers said they expected more than 20,000 people to attend the Buddhist service in the city of Taichung.

Mr Lee left more than $3m (£2m) to various charities.

The BBC's Cindy Sui said the dead man represented a bygone era and that the funeral demonstrated the island's long history with the mafia.

Our correspondent says Mr Lee was perhaps the most respected of mafia bosses.

When the man left this world, he used this way to show his concern for society
Taichung's Mayor Jason Hu

Coming from a childhood of poverty, he joined the mafia to make a living.

But he was known to have practised honour, abhorring violence and prostitution businesses.

He forbade his son from joining the mafia and encouraged many of his disciples to turn to legitimate businesses.

Mr Lee had also negotiated the release of legislators and businessmen kidnapped by gangsters for ransom, our correspondent said.

Guests at Mr Lee's funeral included more than 10 legislators, dozens of mayors, county magistrates and councillors, including Taichung's Mayor Jason Hu, a former foreign minister.

"I felt I had to come to express my thanks," he told AFP news agency, referring to Mr Lee's donation to charity.

"When the man left this world, he used this way to show his concern for society."

Organised gangs are relatively small-scale nowadays but Taiwan's modern-day underworld has links to overseas gangs, including those in China.



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