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The painter of Ferry Pier
Written by Chan Yau Nga Alpha / Translation by Ng Hon Wah / Photo by LEI Jih-sheng
It was the small hours of the morning at the Ferry Pier, Uncle Hing was suddenly woken up by noises coming from the sea. When he peered into the water, he saw a woman’s body. Picking up a fishing net and other equipment nearby, he dragged the woman ashore. Her face had gone dark but regained its normal colour once she was in hospital. Since he first slept at the pier two years ago, Uncle Hing, has saved four people who were on the verge of suicide.
The incident made him believe that to care for marginalized people was “a mission given to me by God”. This mission was in stark contrast to his previous life as a drug pusher.
Uncle Hing was born into a wealthy family. His father was away a lot on overseas business trips and was constantly unfaithful. His wife, Uncle Hing’s mother, could no longer stand it and decided to leave with the children. So Uncle Hing went from growing up in a wealthy family to having to work at the age of 12 to help support the family. At the age of 14, he secretly became a father. He and his girlfriend had been together since they were young children. They got married two years later.
Uncle Hing was able to do a variety of jobs, so he didn’t have to worry about getting jobs. But he got to know some Triad members, gradually became addicted to drugs and was imprisoned on numerous occasions. Later, in order to make quick money, he peddled drugs while working as a tower crane operator. Back then he was very successful, had the means to buy his own property and bring up his three sons.
But 2000 turned into a tragic year. One morning, Uncle Hing had to appear in court to answer charges against him for drug possession, and the judge sentenced him to six months’ detention in a drug rehabilitation centre. While observing the court from the public gallery, his wife received a call from a policeman saying that their 29-year-old eldest son had collapsed and died while taking drugs on a roof.
With her older son dead, and her husband in prison, Uncle Hing’s wife was in a state of despair. The relationship with her husband broke down, and he says she now hates him.
Uncle Hing will regret for the rest of his life that he could not attend his eldest son’s funeral and accompany him on his final journey. Throughout his life, he had made huge profits by selling drugs to other people’s children. Yet his son died young due to taking drugs. “You reap what you sow,” says Uncle Hing, his eyes welling with tears. “I had tried kicking the drug habit before, but in vain, and this time, I was really overwhelmed.”
After Uncle Hing’s release from prison, his wife decided to divorce him. That was when he began to wander the streets. One day, when he arrived at the Ferry Pier, he couldn’t see anybody and decided to make it his home.
He converted to Christianity the same year, started to go to church and repented for his previous mistakes. He picked up his previous interests again and painted
several oil paintings reminiscent of Picasso’s style. He hopes to auction his paintings so that the money can help him get away from his present life.
It is not hard for a delinquent to turn a new leaf but it is not easy to repair broken relationships. Uncle Hing is keen not to disrupt the lives of his wife and younger son, who now has his own family. “Being dirty myself, I do not want to pollute their homes,” he says. But when he saved the drowning woman his life-saving heroics were reported in a newspaper. His son took the initiative to visit him and reopen conversations. “I believe God will help,” says Uncle Hing. “He will help me to rebuild my relationship with family members.” Uncle Hing remains hopeful.