Five little angels

I’m a 25-year-old Brazilian with five children, currently living through a challenging time. I arrived in Hong Kong on May 8, 2023, and was immediately arrested. I’ve now been in prison for a year, spending holidays and family birthdays in this alien environment. Let me share a bit of my backstory.

I was born in Diadema, São Paulo, a place I scarcely know. At the age of four, my parents separated due to my father’s infidelities. Shortly after, my paternal grandparents moved to the countryside, and my mother distanced herself from me, blaming me for their separation. My father disappeared. Consequently, I moved in with my grandparents in the countryside.

As a child, I cried myself sick, yearning for the love of those who were supposed to care for me from my first breath.

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Will I ever see my children again?

I’m a 29-year-old male from Uganda, born in the city of Iganga. I come from a modest Muslim family, one of ten children. Growing up was challenging due to our limited resources. Our parents struggled to provide for our basic needs like food, shelter, clothing, and medical care, a problem further compounded by the government’s inability to assist.

Despite these hardships, I attended school, though I often lacked the funds for school fees, books, and other materials. When I was old enough to work, a friend offered me a job opportunity. I didn’t think twice before accepting, eager to earn money and improve my situation.

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Drug courier’s addiction spirals out of control

Allow me to introduce myself. I was arrested on October 25, 2022, and have been in custody for 17 months. I face two charges of trafficking dangerous drugs on two separate occasions. I pleaded guilty in November and will be sentenced on June 27, 2024.

To be candid, my history with drug abuse only began around 2020. Compared to others who have been using drugs for 10 years or more, I’m relatively new to this. Regrettably, during the most difficult period of my life, my consumption may have been higher than others because I had easy access to large quantities of drugs as a wholesaler in the drug supply chain. There was a time when I consumed over 30g of cocaine in a single day, and periods when I didn’t return home, leaving behind my wife and our three-year-old daughter.

Looking back, I deeply regret my actions.

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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.

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Gambled freedom for gambling debt

I was arrested for drug trafficking, a case involving three types of drugs. Although I’m not a drug user, you might ask, why did I get involved in this?

Previously, I worked at a finance company, answering phone calls. The job provided decent commissions, but it led to a gambling addiction. Eventually, I lost all my money and accumulated significant gambling debts. My family, using all their savings, helped me pay off these debts and loans.

My 72-year-old father is retired, dealing with a chronic illness that requires medication and regular check-ups. My mother, a 68-year-old housewife, works part-time as a cleaner. My older brother is a restaurant chef, and my sister works as a salesperson at a clothing store. We’re not wealthy, and while my family didn’t rush me to repay them, my guilt pushed me down the wrong path.

Eventually, I lost all my money and accumulated significant gambling debts. My family, using all their savings, helped me pay off these debts and loans.

A friend of a colleague heard about my desperate need for money – the rest, as they say, is history.

I’ve been in remand for about two and a half years for this first offense. I’ve noticed that many here have lost friends, family, jobs, and most importantly, their health due to drug addiction. Hence, I encourage them to quit drugs when they’re released, and I intend to spread this message when I’m released as well.

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

Out of the shadows, came light

I am 56 years old, and currently detained at a maximum-security prison in Hong Kong.

Coming from a poor family of seven, we lived in temporary housing and resettlement areas. In the late 1960s, the social environment was quite challenging, and I was recruited into a triad organization when I was just 10 years old. At 13, I began using heroin. Influenced considerably by my peers in my youthful naivety, I got involved in various illegal activities such as fighting, theft, and extortion. My drug addiction later led to my exploitation as a drug trafficker and smuggler.

I dropped out of school during junior high though I attended a reputable school, and even became a baptized Christian. Yet, my fixation on drugs overshadowed my interest in studies. The only thing I cared about was getting money to get high.

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Discos, girls and drugs

From a young age, I was separated from my parents, who had migrated from mainland China a few months before my birth. They were preoccupied with work, so when I was six months old, they sent me back to mainland China to be cared for by my aunt. This arrangement lasted until I was three years old and ready to start school in Hong Kong. Before this time, I had rarely seen my parents and we were estranged.

We lived in a tiny room but despite the limited space, we were content. Later, thanks to a fellow villager, my dad secured employment at a seafood shop, and we relocated. We lived on the first floor above the seafood shop.

My parents enjoyed a good relationship then. We weren’t wealthy, but we had enough for our needs, and life was pleasant. After a couple of years, they managed to buy our very own flat. My father started a successful business in the seafood industry and even opened a processing factory across the border.

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Who will care for my father now?

I’m thankful for the opportunity to share the suffering I’m currently facing. This is about my case and story.

My mother committed suicide in 2012 when I was 10 years old, and since then my father began having emotional problems. Previous to that, my father had a severe accident at work that left him disabled. This limited his mobility, and the household expenses became a huge burden to him. I felt immense pressure and felt I needed to grow up quickly to start working and help support the family.

So, when I was 16 years old, I dropped out of school, only completing up to Form 4. I’d been working as a kitchen assistant ever since, trying to earn money to contribute to my disabled father’s care. This has been my daily routine.

When I was 21 years old, I met a friend at a bar. He asked me to help deliver an item to someone, and that he would cover my travel expenses for the favor. At first, I refused because he wouldn’t tell me what the item was. But given my family’s situation, with a disabled father to support, and the financial temptation, I reluctantly agreed. I didn’t know it was drugs until the night of September 7, 2023, when I received the item from a man. I had no intention of using the drugs myself. However, I was immediately arrested that same night.

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False hope from a false friend

I am a 36-year-old woman from South Africa. I have a 13-year-old son and have been also caring for my grandmother and my late sister’s children. My sister passed away in April 2021, leaving behind a son and daughter who are 7 and 5.

I lost my job in 2020 and started a food business, but I lost that too due to the unrest in my city in 2022. I was living in an unhappy marriage with an abusive husband. It took me a long time to leave him because I was concerned about how I would support the children.

One day, I met a woman who said she knew me, though I didn’t remember her. She said she was sorry about the passing of my late sister and my failed food business. I was surprised to hear this so I asked how she knew all that. Turns out she used to be acquainted with my sister and had patronized my business once before. I cried. She was moved and asked me what I needed most. I told her I desperately needed to restart my business, as it was very difficult to find a job due to the unrest. She said she was going to Johannesburg and would return in two weeks to discuss how she could help me. She gave me her contact information and a food voucher before leaving. I was so happy about this encounter that I told my family all about it and the nice woman I had met.

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Pile of debt to pillar of strength

To start my story, I’ll share my family’s initial reaction upon learning I was in jail. I couldn’t face them, especially my wife and daughter. When my parents came to visit me, they burst into tears. Before this, I rarely kept in touch with them due to my gambling addiction. My debtors had harassed them multiple times, so I chose to stay away from them. Nevertheless, they spent three hours commuting every day just to visit me. Our relationship has become closer because of this experience.

Initially, my parents scolded me for committing such a crime. They did so because they love and care for me. During the first month of their visit, my mom cried every time. I regret making an unwise choice that hurt them.

My wife and daughter were devastated by the news of my imprisonment. At first, my wife refused to accept the fact and it took her a month before she visited me. Each time she came, she collapsed and cried at the sight of me.

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Radio silence

I’ve been in remand since March 28, 2022, nearly two years now. My case involves myself and another defendant, a high school classmate. We face four charges, including “trafficking in dangerous drugs,” with the case involving 1.5 kg of heroin.

I intend to plead guilty. Someone informed the police about the mastermind behind this case earlier. The police first approached me in mid-October, but they didn’t take a statement then. They asked me to provide substantial evidence and information to aid their investigation. I later sent a letter to the police on November 13 and another to the Department of Justice on November 16, requesting to give my statement. The police visited me and took my statement on November 23. They mentioned that my “boss” had implicated me. My boss was arrested in mid-October 2023 in connection with another drug trafficking case and is currently in detention. There were news reports concerning my case between March 22 and 27, 2022.

The incident occurred on March 22 to the 26 at a luxury hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui East. On the same day, the police identified another male and female suspect. Out of fear that this man might harm my family, I told the police at the station he was my friend. On that day, this man hired a prominent lawyer to accompany me during my statement. My statement simply read, “I have nothing to say.”

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Packaged lies

I am a single mother of three. Before becoming a single parent, I was a homemaker, caring for my children. However, my husband had an affair and left us with no regard for our well-being. The emotional trauma and financial hardship at that time set me on this irreversible journey.

In a state of despair and helplessness, struggling to pay rent, electricity bills, and even afford meals for my children, a ‘friend’ I met on social media introduced me to a packaging job. This job, offering an attractive daily wage of HK$1,000 (~USD128), immediate cash payments, and no experience required, seemed promising. I reached out to the contact person for more information.

At that time, I was in desperate need of money, so it seemed like the perfect solution. Two days later, he brought $10,000 in cash to my home and discussed further details.

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Into the deep pit

I am 32 years old. I was arrested for drug trafficking and I am currently on remand. I want to use this opportunity to share my story as a warning to young people about the dangers of drugs and the importance of cherishing their loved ones.

I used to be a construction worker, earning about HKD 20,000 per month. Both my parents suffer from health issues; my father is unemployed due to heart problems, and my mother is physically disabled and unable to work. Additionally, I used to care for my niece because my sister was constantly working. My sister works in sales. However, her monthly income is modest and she also has to finance her daughter’s education.

My romantic relationship also added to my financial burden. The physical strain of my job began to impact my health. I developed a protruding disc in my spine, which caused significant difficulties in my work.

Sleep eluded me. When I did manage to doze off, nightmares would jolt me awake. By the time I woke up, dawn had already broken. This pattern continues to this day.

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Ignorant, but not innocent

I am a 26-year-old half-Pakistani charged with trafficking, involving approximately 90 grams of cocaine found in my residence during a police raid on May 1, 2022.

I grew up in a broken family. My parents divorced when I was four years old, leaving me to grow up with my mother, a single parent. Later, my stepfather frequently subjected me to physical abuse. One time, my injuries were so severe that my school called an ambulance, which took me to the hospital. This incident alerted the authorities, and my stepfather was subsequently taken to court on charges of domestic violence.

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A life utterly destroyed by drugs

Hello everyone, I’m sharing my story to urge you and your loved ones to steer clear of drugs. I’ve been in prison for two years on charges of dangerous drugs trafficking, specifically over 800+ grams. The sentence for this charge ranges from 20 to 23 years. That’s what I’m facing.

I am a 45-year-old man with a 73-year-old mother who suffers from chronic illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes. I also have a 19-year-old son who is still in school. We lived together renting a place for HK$6,000 a month. I studied in Australia until the age of 13 but had to abandon my studies in year 11 due to my parents’ financial difficulties. I got married at 21, had my son at 26, and by 27, I was divorced and had custody of my son. It wasn’t easy being a single parent, but my mother was always there to help.

…But when she left me, taking most of my money, I was devastated. I turned to alcohol and eventually tried ICE, a drug a work friend suggested. This marked the downturn of my life. I treated my mother poorly, moved into an industrial building with my son, and squandered money on drugs.

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