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Wanted: More HK tribute to Bruce Lee

(DOOR)WAY OF THE DRAGON: Bruce Lee makes an appearance in the office of a Hong Kong gallery exhibiting paintings of the legend by local artists. This weekend, fans in the city will mark the icon's death 40 years ago.


    Jul 19, 2013

    Wanted: More HK tribute to Bruce Lee

    THE late gongfu star Bruce Lee may be an international icon, but he is still not recognised fully as a local hero in Hong Kong.

    Fans are marking his death 40 years ago this weekend with art-gallery shows, exhibitions and even street graffiti, but some people are urging Hong Kong's government to do more to honour the former British colony's biggest star.

    Lawmakers and scholars have joined fans in their calls, fearing the government is wary of fully embracing Lee's legacy. His enduring spirit of youthful rebellion and a willingness to fight big oppressors may have spooked city leaders prone to second-guessing their political masters in Beijing.

    "The Hong Kong government or the people at the top of the governing body are not thinking, first of all, in terms of the Hong Kong people's mindset," said Dr Lo Wai Luk, an associate professor at the Academy of Film of Hong Kong Baptist University.

    "They think of how to do something to please the mainland Chinese government, or not to violate" what they think Beijing likes, he said.

    American-born but raised in Hong Kong, Lee died of brain swelling aged just 32 at the height of his fame. His most popular film, the worldwide blockbuster Enter The Dragon, was released just six days after his death on July 20, 1973.

    The government did not respond to Reuters' questions. But, in recent statements, it has outlined a number of officially-backed efforts to mark the anniversary.

    It has supported a five-year exhibition, due to be opened today by Financial Secretary John Tsang at a museum.

    The government film archive is producing documentaries of Lee's life and new prints of some of his films.

    But some fans feel the government is simply making up for lost time and they are angry about the lack of a permanent memorial or museum to honour the star.

    A member of the city's Legislative Council questioned officials over their failed negotiations two years ago to buy and restore Lee's former mansion in the upscale Kowloon Tong suburb to create a museum devoted to him.

    Mr Gregory So, Hong Kong's secretary for commerce and economic development, acknowledged Lee's "tremendous contribution" to martial arts and cinema, and the deep international and domestic interest in his life.

    But he said that there were no plans to reopen negotiations on taking over Lee's old home.

    Some fans are taking matters happily into their own hands.

    Amid the bustle of the business and entertainment district of Wan Chai, a graffiti caricature of Lee marks the entrance to an alley that leads to an art gallery. Renowned avant-garde artists have attempted to capture his fighting spirit in paintings that line the walls.

    Co-organiser Adam Chow said Lee's "spirit and strong body" had a big impact on scrawny Hong Kong teenagers in the 1970s.

    "At that time, Hong Kong people were very skinny. So, as teenagers, we were surprised that he had a very strong body," Mr Chow said. "He also worked very hard and showed a lot of confidence to the public."

    Posters and T-shirts of the star in his famous battle stance, scars across his muscled torso, remain hot items in markets.

    Fans will lay wreaths tomorrow at the foot of a statue of Lee, in full gongfu flight, on the Kowloon waterfront.

    Mr Wong Yiu Keung, chairman of Hong Kong's Bruce Lee fan club, told Reuters that the city's government owed a great deal to Lee.

    "They have always used him when promoting the city abroad, but have never done anything in honour of him."