Fans of late Hong Kong Cantopop, acting legend Leslie Cheung gather to pay tribute

Fans of late acting and singing legend Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing gathered in Hong Kong on Monday to pay tribute to the star who took his life 21 years ago, including some who travelled from as far away as France and Xinjiang in western mainland China.

Flower bouquets lined the Mandarin Hotel in Central, where the 46-year-old singer who struggled with depression jumped to his death in 2003, while many also flocked to a photo exhibition in Hung Hom and his final resting place in Sha Tin.

The remembrance was also observed on a southbound East Rail train, where two fans placed bouquets of white and yellow flowers with photos of the celebrity on the floor inside the carriage.

Li Xiang, a 29-year-old dance teacher, planned a one-day trip from Shenzhen to pay tribute to the artist, visiting both the exhibition and the hotel.

Fans lay flowers for Leslie Cheung outside the Mandarin Oriental in Central. Photo: Sam Tsang

“I feel like he went somewhere he belonged. But knowing that kind of person existed in the world before is a real comfort to me, helping me feel less stressed with my daily hustle,” said Li, who first came to know the artist through his movie A Better Tomorrow.

Ma Jie, a 24-year-old from Yunnan province, said he started listening to Cheung’s songs when he was six, and planned to pay respect to his idol in person in Hong Kong for the first time after graduating from university this year.

“It has to be April 1 in Hong Kong. This date and this place. It makes me feel special being surrounded by so many people who love Cheung,” said Ma, who visited the exhibition and Sha Tin Po Fook Hill where the singer is buried.

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The exhibition in Hung Hom was organised by three brothers who are fans of Cheung.

“The coffee shop reached out to us this year and we think it is commemorative because Cheung used to own a coffee shop as well,” said Carol Cheng, a staff member at the exhibition.

“Although the venue is smaller this year, there are still many fans travelling here to pay tribute. I have met fans from Japan, Korea, Malaysia and France over the weekend.

“Many mainland fans from Shenzhen and Guangzhou, and also some from further provinces like Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang have come.”

Two fans on a train with flower bouquets and photos of the late superstar. Photo: Danny Mok

A local visitor to the exhibition, Man Wong, 50, said she helped some fans from the mainland pay for a souvenir photo shoot last year and was invited into a WeChat fan group with more than 300 members, who all shared information about Cheung’s life.

“Several years ago I was a little surprised that Leslie Cheung had such a big fan base in mainland China,” Wong said.

“I really appreciate that they are enthusiastic and insistent. Some of them travel to Hong Kong every year to take part in all kinds of commemorative events.”

Affectionately known as Gor Gor – “big brother” in Cantonese – the tailor’s son became a star during Cantopop’s golden era in the 1980s and 1990s.

Cheung’s career began in 1977, when he was the first runner-up in that year’s Asian Music Contest with his rendition of Don McLean’s American Pie. He released more than 40 music albums and appeared in 56 films.

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His breakthrough film role was in the 1986 hit A Better Tomorrow, and he went on to star in many more movies through the 1990s, including the award-winning Farewell My Concubine, Days of Being Wild, Ashes of Time and Happy Together.

Cheung shocked the entertainment world when he took his own life by leaping from the balcony of the Mandarin Oriental hotel’s 24th-floor gym on April 1, 2003.

If you have suicidal thoughts, or you know someone who is, help is available. For Hong Kong, dial +852 18111 for the government-run “Mental Health Support Hotline” or +852 2896 0000 for The Samaritans and +852 2382 0000 for Suicide Prevention Services. In the US, call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.


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