'I destroyed people, shattered families'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 December, 2009, 12:00am

Teddy Hung Hon-yee says that in his prime in the 1970s he supplied much of the heroin in Hong Kong.

As a top boss for the 14K triad his turf stretched all over To Kwa Wan, running the gang's gambling rooms, opium dens and go-go bars. He had more than enough power and money and wasn't even 40.

Sitting in a makeshift office - converted shipping containers overlooking a vacant lot in Yuen Long - Hung, now 61, looks back on the path that led him to organised crime boss.

Wearing a simple, dark-green jacket and faded blue jeans, Hung looks mellow but spirited. His face is lined and occasionally he needs a magnifying glass to help him read.

He recalls the road that took him to prison, to managing one of the city's biggest nightclubs and to where he is now - a servant of God, he says, who wants to make up for the pain he caused.

'I realise what I did was horrible,' Hung says. 'It destroyed many people and shattered many families.'

While Hung says his days as a triad have passed, the police are not convinced, last month naming him a Tsim Sha Tsui faction leader of the 14k and arresting him during a sweep of the area.

He was charged with resisting an officer and will face court on January 20.

The way Hung tells it, his immersion in the drug trade came along as if by chance.

'In the early 70s, a customer of a nightclub that I supervised came to me for help after he found a huge package of heroin in his warehouse,' he says. 'He said his Thai partner had smuggled it into Hong Kong but the expected dealer had been arrested in the US.'

The customer asked him if he could distribute the heroin, Hung agreed. When he discovered how easy and quickly the money rolled in, Hung turned his focus to trafficking, quickly becoming one of the largest drug dealers in Hong Kong.

He met a woman, they married and had two sons.

Hung says he should have been safe from authorities. He was paying off the police, but he hadn't factored in the increasing power of the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Police arrested him in 1984 for trafficking, even though he says he was out of the business by then.

He spent the next 14 years in prison: 'Every hour was unbearable.'

It was a dramatic rise and fall for the son of an immigrant. Born in Chiu Chow in 1948, Hung was the middle of seven children of a Kuomintang warlord. His early childhood wasn't a happy time, he says, as he was often bullied because of his family's political background. When Hung was 10, he and his mother sneaked into Hong Kong, where his father had already moved some of the family to a place in Happy Valley.

Hung was enrolled in an international school, which his father thought would give him a more 'sophisticated' education than a Chinese school. 'I was sent to a Fatima International School in Tsim Sha Tsui,' he says, but he was a poor student.

Life outside school was a different world altogether. Hung's father worked at Nam Pak Hong, a famous trading house, exporting Chinese herbs. With his military and business connections, his father's network of acquaintances stretched wide, with some involved in crime. Some of the men promised his father they would 'look after' the boy. One saw in Hung the potential of 'a rising star in the gang'.

By the time Hung was in his mid-teens, he had been put in charge of 'many activities'.

Hung said he was able to rise up to senior level in the 14K within a short time. Many of his peers trusted and respected him for using tact and brains, rather than governing with his brawn.

Hung was released from jail in 1998, but the moment was bittersweet. 'I long anticipated my release, but when I stepped out of the prison my bliss lasted less than half an hour,' he recalls. 'At that moment I suddenly felt old and that my life was draining away.'

He says he tried to escape his depression by losing himself in pleasure. He became manager of the notorious '348' disco in Yau Ma Tei, the largest in the city at that time and a popular spot for celebrities.

'In 348, I was able to meet all kinds of women,' he says. 'And I was totally oblivious to my wife's pain; she had squandered her youth waiting for me while I was in prison.' His marriage fell apart when one of his mistresses confronted his wife.

The disco was closed years later following a series of crackdowns by police for operating without a licence. It was during this period, Hung says, that he began to turn to Christianity.

One of Hung's friends at the time was a former head of World Vision Hong Kong, a Christian non-governmental organisation. As a favour, he agreed to meet some visiting theology students who wanted to question him about his life choices. 'In 2001, I received a group of 20 or so theology doctorate candidates in my office at 348 disco. One of them asked me how I wanted people to remember me after I die,' he says. 'At that point I broke down crying.'

Hung says he has reconciled with his wife and has big plans for his latest venture - a chain of reputable massage parlours. One is up and running in To Kwa Wan and another two are in the works. He has plans for 200.

Apart from making a profit, Hung says he had not forgotten his mission to serve those in need.

Each parlour will set aside some sessions to provide free treatment for the elderly and chronically ill.

And he hopes to employ former inmates who he says deserve a second chance. 'Most employers will not trust these people, and many ex-convicts have trouble adjusting to the outside world.' he says.

It remains to be seen what direction Hung's life will take.

The Reverend Samuel Lai Chun-moon, of the Fuk Lam Church, said triad members who held steadfastly to their faith were few and far between.

But the former drug addict nicknamed the 'Temple Street pastor' is willing to give credit where it is due.

'The Teddy Hung that I know is serious about his faith, but he's under great pressure,' he says.

Lai dismisses the suggestion that Hung might be using the church to gloss his reputation.

'People from the underworld usually do not take advantage of the church or religion. What material gain can they make from believing in Jesus? Nothing, and they even have to offer donations.'

Hung says his ambition does not stop with the massage parlour.

'My next goal is to set up centres to help marginal youths,' he says.

Hung's eyes still flash a slight menace when he grows animated. But then he says that if his projects work, 'let God receive the credit'.