Hope from within a dark iron cage

I want to share my journey. Previously, despite being in my prime, I felt trapped by various issues, as if being in a dark cage. These stemmed from my violent and misunderstood family background. Reflecting on my past, I see that nearly half my life was spent in a state of lost freedom.

I was born into a typical family. My father was a construction worker, and my mother was a busy retail salesperson. They were often preoccupied with work, so from the age of 12, I had to learn to fend for myself. However, a single phone call dramatically changed my life forever.

One day during my first year of secondary school, I came home to find my father sitting on the sofa, drinking. After changing my clothes, I walked into the living room to find him on the phone. Once he ended the call, he unexpectedly grabbed me by the collar and slapped me repeatedly, berating me for causing him embarrassment. It turned out that my homeroom teacher had contacted my parents because I had failed my test for the third time, hoping they could guide me. After the reprimand, I retreated to my room to avoid my inebriated father.

The silence as we walked home together was unsettling.

I left for school early the next morning, while my father was still asleep. At the school assembly, my homeroom teacher noticed my facial injuries and unusual demeanor, leading him to take me to the social worker’s office. There, I revealed the events that had transpired at home the day before. The social worker then called in my father for counseling, aiming to change his tendency to use violence as a problem-solving method. In their presence, he vowed not to resort to violent communication with me again. The silence as we walked home together was unsettling.

Upon arriving home, he abruptly slapped me, causing me to collide with a wall corner. He reprimanded me for exposing our family’s issues to the teachers. At that moment, I decided to immediately escape from this home.

Running away

Thus, I began my escape. It was during this period that I fell prey to the allure of the triad society. Initially, they took care of my needs. If I was hungry, they would take me to eat. If I needed rest, they would offer their home. When I felt desperate, I succumbed to their persuasion and first encountered drugs. Then, under their direction, I started selling drugs to earn money. Even though this phase was brief, it planted a seed in my heart.

Once, I was caught shoplifting at a supermarket and sentenced to a training center. After my release, I ran away from home due to financial disagreements with my parents. However, I was forced to return home due to a supervision order. While under supervision, I worked at a restaurant arranged by the officer. About a month after the order ended, I had a minor disagreement with a colleague. Feeling ostracized, I resigned.

At home, I informed my parents about my resignation. I mentioned that I might not be able to contribute to the household expenses for the month but promised to resume once I found new employment. To my surprise, my father claimed that I hadn’t learned my lesson while in the rehabilitation center and had only caused trouble. He demanded that if I couldn’t pay the expenses that month, then I should leave. Enraged, I stormed out of the house.

When my savings ran low, I reached out to my old triad acquaintances. Through them, I joined a criminal gang, which led me deeper into a world of crime. I started dealing with drugs again, and while it provided temporary financial relief, it resulted in my arrest in 2017. I lost three and a half years of my life to incarceration.

Upon my release in 2021, I intended to start fresh and work hard to make up for the lost years. However, my limited education, criminal record, and the ongoing pandemic created significant barriers. Finding no other options, I resumed my old ways and started a marijuana business with some friends. Unfortunately, I was arrested again for drug-related charges on November 29, 2021.

Into an iron cage again

Now, nearing 30, I’ve gained the wisdom I’ve sought for years. While I regret the choices that hindered my future, “It’s never too late to mend the pen after the sheep are gone.”

Recently while in prison, an inmate approached my workstation – a nearly 70-year-old man imprisoned for drug trafficking. During my lunch break, we had a conversation. His words profoundly impacted me. He urged me not to act as if the world owed me anything, even if it seemed so. He emphasized that my life was in my hands and that blaming others for my setbacks was futile. From that day forward, my mindset began to shift. I realized that I needed to take responsibility for my future. I didn’t want to let my life slip away within this iron cage.

The world does not owe you anything, even if it seems so. Your life is in your hands, blaming others for your setbacks is futile.


I’ve decided to make a fresh start. Even though the days ahead may be challenging, I’m committed to maintaining my determination. I’ll persevere and stay strong, as this is my only path toward self-improvement and escaping my current situation.

Though my parents haven’t visited me this time, I’ve come to understand their reasons. After my release from prison, I plan to rebuild our strained family ties and fulfill my responsibilities as their son.

Recently, some friends visited and we discussed current societal trends. The world is changing fast! They introduced me to concepts like the development of artificial intelligence and Hong Kong’s integration into the Greater Bay Area. I now converse daily with some mainland Chinese inmates to improve my Mandarin and I’m also learning about computer information. This way, when I’m released, I will not be so lost and can keep up with society.

Going through this experience has made me realize that I am not as hopeless as I had imagined. Although I am still in prison, I am filled with hope for the future.

Note: This story was originally written in Chinese in two parts. It has been translated and edited to improve legibility. Switch language to read the original.