Deep in the jungle of Lantau Island, the Zheng Sheng Rehabilitation centre was remotely situated for one specific reason, it was home to eighty boys with scarred pasts. Many young people in Hong Kong have their lives ruined by the pressures and temptations of drugs and gang activity. ‘Zheng Sheng’ when translated into English means ‘Repent to Live’ and the Zheng Sheng rehabilitation centre was home to a group of boys who had been given a second chance to create a new life free from drugs and crime.
The boys served a minimum of two years because they had committed crimes. Their addictions led them to carry out assaults or thefts, forcing parole officers and the police into sending them to the centre to seek help. Although a strict environment, the centre offered a more curative option than that offered by prison. The centre was basic, cramped and a rigorous regime was followed seven days a week. The boys were under constant control by wardens, many of whom were ex-drug addicts and the day began at 6 am and finished at 10 pm with exercise, study and labouring being the key focus for development and rehabilitation. Staying at the centre gave these boys the possibility of a fresh start and the opportunity to learn the basic skills in life, which they may not have learned in their turbulent pasts. Although daily life was difficult, brotherhood was encouraged and the centre acted as a home to a group of boys who found themselves in the same situation. They shared similar backgrounds, social positions and values and a close family tie was woven within this small community on the fringes of Hong Kong society.
Life at the centre prepared these boys to be reunited with their families and society in the hope that they would make a positive start in their new lives, rather than going back down the path from which they came.