Lee agreed, drawn to the activities and free games on offer, like snooker, which he would never have had the chance to play otherwise. What kept him there, however, were the mentors – the police.
It was tough love, he said, and they demanded respect.
“They always said, ‘I can handcuff you, don’t play the fool’,” he recalls. “But they took care of us. They saw that we were hungry; they would say, ‘Go buy some food’. I will pay.'”
They sometimes insisted that he join events and excursions like a trip to Haw Par Villa. “They were like, ‘I’ve already put your name down. It’s an order – you better come, ”he said. He never regretted going there.
He mostly clicked with one of the mentors, whom he knew as Uncle Tang. “He’s a Cantonese, I’m a Cantonese,” Lee said. “He is very close to me.
Uncle Tang “basically” raised him, gave him “a lot of support” and even spoke to his mother sometimes to say that “actually Lee is not that bad.”
That’s why, when he failed his O levels and decided to enroll in a machining apprenticeship course with a three-year obligation, he asked Uncle Tang to be his surety.
“When he read the contract he was shocked,” Lee said. It wasn’t until the signing that Uncle Tang found out he would have to pay S $ 32,000 – a huge sum at the time – if Lee broke the bond.
But to Lee’s relief, Uncle Tang signed the contract. “He said, ‘Ho ho zho lang (be a good person), okay?’,” Said Lee. “Do not let me down.”
With the opportunity to make a success of his life, Lee graduated with distinction and began his career as a machinist.
Over the years, he rose through the ranks in different companies, earned an engineering degree and traveled the world, helping to oversee various projects. Eventually, he started his own plastic injection molding business.