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Hong Kong Top Star Cheung Commits Suicide
Hong Kong pop star and actor Leslie Cheung leapt to his death from a five-star hotel Tuesday, HK TV stations and radio reported.

Cheung, known locally as Cheung Kwok-wing, plunged to his death from the luxury hotel in Hong Kong's busy Central District, radio station RTHK reported on its Website. Two Hong Kong television stations also carried the same report.

Police declined to provide a full identity but said a man surnamed Cheung, whose given name included "wing," leapt from a hotel room in the Mandarin Oriental.

Cheung was certified dead at 7:06 pm after arriving at Queen Mary Hospital, police said.

A suicide note was found on the body, according to police spokeswoman Catherine Chiu.

The 46-year-old Cheung rose to fame as a singer in the 1980s with a bad-boy image and followed it up with a distinguished film career.

Cheung, the youngest of 10 children, was born in Hong Kong in 1956. After receiving his education in England, he returned home in the late 1970s and became an actor.

One of the few Chinese stars to portray openly gay characters, Cheung starred in the Academy Award-nominated "Farewell My Concubine," in which he portrayed a homosexual Chinese opera singer who falls in love with a fellow performer.

He also starred as a Hong Kong man who moved to Argentina with his male lover in director Wong Kar-wai's "Happy Together."

The 1997 film was banned in Malaysia and South Korea for its openly gay theme but it was honored internationally when the Shanghai-born Wong took home the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival in France.

Cheung also appeared in other Wong films, including "Days of Being Wild" and "Ashes of Time."

The Mandarin Oriental confirmed a body was found in front of the hotel early yesterday evening but declined further comment.

"The matter is currently in the hands of the police," general manager Peter Lowe told the Associated Press by phone.

As the news arrived on April 1, many believed it was only another April Fool's joke.

But with more details unfolded, people began to accept it was true.

"It's a huge loss for Hong Kong's entertainment industry," said Ng See-Yuen, the famous Hong Kong director who is currently in Shanghai.

"Hong Kong is already suffering from the severe acute respiratory syndrome. His death is definitely another blow to the society and will add more depression to people there," he said.

"His choice was not worthy at all. Children may be affected by his deed too," he added.

Ng guessed the suicide was "possibly related to his emotional affairs."

Ng noted this year's Hong Kong Film Awards would still carry on.

"At this moment, I think it's better to continue the awards to show the world that we will never give up our hopes and dreams," he said.

Just as with people in Hong Kong, fans in Shanghai, mostly in their 20s and 30s who grew up with Cheung's songs, were also caught by surprise with the news.

On internet chat rooms people rushed to post their condolences.

"He was a real superstar. He brought us so many wonderful songs and movies. I couldn't believe this is true," said one surfer on a sina.com chat room. "I wish for him to rest in peace in heaven."

Xu Hong, who was informed of the star's death through phone calls from her friends, said she became a fan of Cheung about 12 years ago when she was a middle school student.

Xu said she hoped the tragic news "would" be just an April Fool's Day joke. "I only attended a performance of his in Shanghai last year. He was so good in concert at that time."

(eastday.com April 2, 2003)

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