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Spirit of Hong Kong

Son of Hong Kong triad boss gives ex-convicts a new start by hiring them for his firm

Roy Tang dealt in drugs, then turned his back on crime and found meaning in life through his air-conditioning company

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 May, 2017, 4:35pm
UPDATED : Monday, 15 May, 2017, 9:35pm

As the son of a triad boss, Roy Tang Po-hei grew up in a bubble. From a young age, he watched gang members dealing huge bags of cocaine, threatening people with cleavers and demanding “protection fees”. He was raised thinking this was normal behaviour.

After being kicked out of school in Form One, he fell into a life of crime. It was not long before he was in charge of the marijuana business, and from there he started collecting protection fees from drivers. Those who did not pay up would come back to stuffed exhaust pipes or wedged tyres.

Tang never had to worry about making money to survive. He had a house powered by stolen electricity, water and gas. All the income he made was for spending on whatever he liked.

In his twenties, Tang was jailed four months for handling crime proceeds.

At the age of 33, he began to wonder if he would be doing this for the rest of his life. He talked to his family and friends about it, and started to question whether he really enjoyed it. He eventually decided he would leave the triad. Those around him were shocked he would give up what appeared to be so much.

At 35, he turned to Christianity, which further gave him purpose to renew his life and find meaning.

“Inside the triad world, I couldn’t see the outside world. When I left, I felt life was not simple,” Tang said. He quickly realised that unless he learned some real-life skills, he would not be able to survive.

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He found a job that paid HK$6,000 a month installing and fixing air conditioners. A year later, he left and founded his own air-conditioning business – Millennium Engineering.

In the past five years, he has made it his company’s mission to hire and rehabilitate ex-convicts, many of whom were his triad friends who have been released from prison.

Each new hire goes through his personally developed course, which teaches basic safety, and air-conditioning installation and maintenance skills. Tang feels it is his responsibility to show ex-convicts there is a better life outside the triads, teach them the skills required to succeed and encourage them to help others.

I am not a boss, I am a leader
Roy Tang Po Hei, reformed triad member

Through multiple mistakes and failures, Tang has built up a lucrative business. He attributes his success to leading by example. “I am not a boss, I am a leader,” he said. That means getting his hands dirty doing physical labour alongside his employees.

He adopts the same attitude in his personal life. Tang wants his two children to pick up good habits. This includes exercising every day, regular trips to the library, hiking for fresh air and a clearer perspective on life, as well as donating blood every three months.

The 45-year-old’s approach to life and business has earned Millennium Engineering a nomination for the South China Morning Post’s Spirit of Hong Kong Awards in the Lion Rock Entrepreneurship category. Nominated by his social mission partner, Tang sees this as a way to get the message out to more former convicts.

“I understand their mentality. They are simply lost. They are not inherently bad people. They make mistakes, just like everybody else. The more power I have as an individual, the more people I can help. I really believe this is my role.”