HONG KONG — Fans of the late singing-pop icon Leslie Cheung, one of the first singers to come out as gay in Hong Kong, flocked to the city this week to commemorate the death of their idol 20 years ago, revisiting his legacy of pioneering work. during a socially conservative era. time.

Cheung, who was 46 when he died, was a superstar known for his singing, dancing and acting during the heyday of Hong Kong’s entertainment industry in the 1980s and 1990s. fondly his works that break the rules and called him “advanced”.

The 20th anniversary of Cheung’s death was on Saturday and drew crowds of local fans and mainland supporters. Porcelain to visit exhibitions about him in Hong Kong. Even the government included concerts and film screenings about him at the city’s first pop culture festival, which is scheduled to officially kick off in three weeks.

Cheung’s local reminiscences show that the late celebrity remains a popular icon among generations of Hong Kongers and reflects a desire to revive the city’s cultural influence, said Anthony Fung, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s school of journalism and communication. Kong.

“After so many years, we hardly find new icons, new superstars that can reach that level of importance,” he said.

Cheung, affectionately known as Gor Gor, Cantonese for “big brother,” produced many hits that even non-Cantonese-speaking music lovers in other parts of Asia could sing along to. These include “Monica”, “Sleepless Nights Restless Heart” and “Chase”. He also starred in classic movies such as John Woo’s “A Better Tomorrow,” Wong Kar-wai’s “Happy Together,” Stanley Kwan’s “Rouge,” and Chen Kaige’s “Farewell My Concubine.”

But behind all his success, Cheung suffered from depression. He jumped to his death from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in central Hong Kong on April 1, 2003, sending shock waves throughout the city. His death came as his hometown was battling the SARS epidemic, which ultimately killed hundreds and crippled the local economy.

Hong Kong fan Connie Leung, a retiree now in her 60s, recalled her disbelief when she first heard the news of his death from a former colleague. “I said ‘don’t make a joke like that on April Fool’s Day,’” she said.

She said that Cheung’s songs never got stale and that her fashion tastes, including her iconic long hair, were modern, even by today’s standards.

Chris Choi, Cheung’s concert choreographer in the 2000s, said the late superstar broke many genre boundaries by introducing “unisex” ideas, some of which were risky at the time. Her stage wardrobe, for example, included seashell culottes and red high heels.

“He told people that art has no limits,” he said.

Cheung also broke the city’s cultural status quo by boldly coming out as gay in a conservative local society at the time, a decision that could have ruined his career but has earned him much respect from the gay community, Fung said. The big breakthrough was about the plurality of culture that he celebrated, he said.

“It actually crossed the border, made noise and influenced Hong Kong culture,” Fung said.

Cheung’s work not only inspired older generations of fans, but also those who were young children when he died.

College student Justin Jiang said he was only 3 years old when Cheung died, but later became a fan in high school after learning more about Cheung’s personality and charisma from his legacy of works. This week, the 22-year-old, who lives in neighboring Guangzhou, visited Hong Kong with a friend to pay tribute to his idol.

He praised Cheung’s boldness in expressing her views and breaking a society heavily influenced by gender stereotypes years ago.

“Gor Gor is very brave and this is worth learning for us,” he said.

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