Miami Vice Wiki
Lao Li


Nationalist Chinese General
Drug empire leader
Incarcerated, drug distribution and attempted murder of his grandsons
Played By

General Lao Li was a Nationalist Chinese general who ran an opium empire across the Golden Triangle from the 1960s until the early 1980s. One of the world's major heroin producers, his operations in the region were backed by the CIA in order to bolster American political interests in the area, even at the expense of other American agencies such as the DEA. Li was responsible for the ambush and slaughter of Martin Castillo's DEA team in the Golden Triangle, an incident from which Castillo barely escaped with his life.

In 1985, Li moved to Miami with his family, ostensibly to retire in peace and comfort. Despite his caution and determination to adhere to America's laws, he was eventually brought down by Castillo and his Vice department for the attempted murder of his grandsons.


The Golden Triangle

At its height, Lao Li's drug empire was one of the foremost producers of heroin in the world, producing two and a half tons of opium every year. This made him a principle target of the DEA, who, in a bid to tackle the huge volume of heroin coming out of the Golden Triangle, had dispatched a taskforce to the area to try and interdict the drugs at their source, ambushing the caravans bringing raw opium out of the mountains and preventing it from reaching the market. Among the agents sent to the Golden Triangle were Martin Castillo and Jack Gretsky.

However, Li's operations had the support and backing of the CIA, as his opium production was being financed by politicians in Bangkok friendly to American interests -- and in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, when most of Southeast Asia was hostile towards the United States, keeping those politicians happy was deemed a priority. Thus, the CIA instructed the DEA that they were free to carry out any anti-drug operations in the region that they wished, so long as Li's product was not interfered with in any way.

Fateful ambush

Despite the CIA's instructions, Castillo's team continued to target Li, and their efforts to disrupt his heroin operations began to cause political problems for the CIA in Thailand. When it became clear that Castillo and his men would never heed the instructions they had been given by the CIA, Dale Menton, Lao li's Agency contact, took matters into his own hands -- after learning that Castillo intended to set up an ambush for one of Li's mule trains, he passed word of the impending attack to the General so that he could intercept the DEA team and take them out. Sure enough, when Castillo set up the ambush, his team was suddenly hit from behind and all but annihilated. Castillo himself was wounded and barely escaped alive; when Li learned of his survival, he had his house destroyed in a grenade attack. Soon afterwards, Castillo left the Golden Triangle and the DEA.

To Miami

Five years later, Lao Li intended to retire from the drug trade and relocate to Miami, along with his extended family, where the he hoped to spend his remaining years in comfort. Upon learning that his old adversary Castillo was now a Lieutenant with the Organized Crime Bureau in the city, Li arranged for Castillo's former wife May Ying -- whom Castillo had thought killed in the attack on his home in the Golden Triangle -- to be moved to Miami by way of offering her new husband, Ma Sek, lucrative employment at a textile company. He accepted, and with May Ying living in the city, the General now had a potential hostage should Castillo ever make a move against him in the future.

With the pieces in place, Lao Li now arranged for his own passage to Miami. To this end, he called upon his old CIA liaison Dale Menton, who produced the requisite immigration papers and had them stashed at a Miami hotel. Li then hired career criminal Albert Szarbo to break into the hotel vault and steal the papers. However, rather than hand them over, Szarbo and his accomplice attempted to make off with them themselves, leading Li to dispatch assassin Boon Phratek to eliminate the thieves and make an example of them; the assassin mutilated both men as a message to others not to betray the General. With his the immigration documents he needed now in his position, Li began to move his family to Miami. However, Phratek was later tracked down by Castillo, although the assassin committed suicide before he could be questioned. Nevertheless, Lao Li decided to pass word to Castillo of his wife's survival, intending to use her as a bargaining chip to prevent the Lieutenant from coming after him, for fear of his former wife's safety.


Soon afterwards, Castillo and Li finally met in person in Miami. The General was sure to point out that he had broken no laws in the city, meaning Castillo could not touch him, and while he was very careful not to make any overt threats against May Ying, the message Li gave his old adversary was clear -- if Castillo came for him, she would be harmed. Following this, Li went on with enjoying his retirement, making very sure to stay within the law and demanding the same of every member of his family.

However, Li's grandsons, determined to make a name for themselves as their grandfather had done, ignored his instructions and quickly began making plans to enter the drug trade themselves, arranging a deal with Miami restaurant owner Howie Wong. Their illegal activities came to the attention of OCB, and they were busted trying to make their first sale. When Li heard he duly had his grandsons bailed, taking them to remote warehouse to demand an explanation for their actions. Instead, they met him with defiance, and an enraged Li ordered them killed for the danger they had brought upon his entire family. Unknown to the General, the order was caught on tape by the waiting Vice squad, and Castillo's men bust in before the execution could be carried out. Li and Menton were arrested and Castillo finally secured some degree of revenge against his nemesis.