BY HENRY WEI – As I reflect on my Yesterday's visit to the LAI CHI KOK reception center, I am filled with a mix of emotions. It was an experience that left an indelible mark on my heart and reminded me of the power of empathy and human connection.
I waited patiently for my number to be called, surrounded by a sea of faces with stories of their own. Time seemed to stretch on as bureaucratic procedures unfolded, reminding me that even in our quest for solace, there can be moments of box-ticking that burden those seeking redemption.
Finally, the moment arrived, and I stepped into a world where rules seemed to exist in parallel to ours. I found myself face to face with a middle-aged African American inmate, whose case had unfolded in a tragically unexpected manner. He had been unwittingly drawn into the dark web of drug trafficking, deceived by a so-called "friend" who had manipulated his trust. A simple favor to bring a jacket to Hong Kong had transformed his life forever. Inside that seemingly innocent garment lay eight bags of cocaine, leading to charges that could imprison him for over nine years.
Despite the weight of his circumstances, my inmate's spirit was surprisingly uplifting. Over the course of our 15-minute conversation, we delved into his past, his aspirations, and, most importantly, his family. The pride in his eyes was evident as he spoke of his three daughters and four sons. One of his daughters, a beacon of hope, had recently completed her second master's degree and was on the cusp of taking the bar exam to become a lawyer. His love and admiration for her shone through his every word.
In that confined space, we found solace and shared wisdom. "Be forward-looking," I encouraged him. "There is still so much to be hopeful about, and there's always light at the end of the tunnel." His gaze met mine, and a smile spread across his face, a flicker of hope amidst the darkness.
Before bidding farewell, I made a promise to send him a Christmas card during my next visit. As we exchanged that final glance, our unspoken understanding conveyed a bond forged in a brief but profound encounter. We waved goodbye, and as I walked out, the weight of the experience settled upon me.
Stepping back into the world outside, I was greeted by the sights and sounds of life unfolding—the laughter of young children, the tender embraces of old couples, and the companionship of boyfriends and girlfriends. It was a beautiful Saturday morning.
(I want to thank Voice for Prisoners, who tirelessly facilitate these meetings and infuse our city with acts of kindness and love, making Hong Kong a warmer and more compassionate place to call home.)