Clifford Coonan: City pays its respects to the kung fu master

Hong Kong Notebook
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The Independent Online

Looking over the harbour at one of the world's greatest views, the multi-skyscrapered Hong Kong cityscape, you can adopt a kung fu stance in front of a statue of the man who single-handedly invented martial arts as we know it. Pay your respects to the master, Bruce Lee.

Lee's furious Fists of Fury and Way of the Dragon put Hong Kong's film business on the map, but beyond this statue, his contribution has gone largely unmarked by an official monument in his home town since his death 36 years ago.

Lee's last home in Hong Kong was at 41 Cumberland Road in the Kowloon Tong district, where the TV stations and movie studios that made his reputation can be found. These days his house is a love motel, where couples can rent by the hour in discreet surroundings.

Fans have demonstrated at this statue at the harbourfront in Tsim Sha Tsui and accuse the city of not paying proper homage to him. Now the authorities hope to mark his heroic contribution to Hong Kong's heritage with the construction of a museum in his former house, and they have launched a design competition to build a venue fitting for the kung fu master.

Other efforts to remember the martial arts king include a new film trilogy about his life which will start shooting in October. It's still quite difficult to find box-sets of DVDs of Bruce Lee's movies here, but only because they are sold out. Copies of his early movies – including Great Expectations – are available.

He was truly gifted – as well as his martial prowess, he was also a ballroom-dancing champion. It was down these neon-lit, crowded streets that he plied his trade and where he made 46 kung fu movies.

Lee was only 32 when he died of a swelling in the brain in 1973, while starring and directing the movie Game of Death, less than a month after the release of Enter the Dragon, the definitive Bruce Lee movie which turned him into an international star. He could have been so much bigger.

Plot thickens on no less a Lee

The story of another Lee – the veteran democracy campaigner Martin Lee, no relation to Bruce – has dominated the headlines in Hong Kong this month.

Police in China have arrested seven men, including the man they believe to be the mastermind behind a plot to shoot Lee and a leading pro-democracy media tycoon, Jimmy Lai.

The arrests took place just across the border from Hong Kong in the southern boom town of Shenzhen, and police officials said the men had links to Triad organised crime gangs.

It's a strange story that has lots of tongues wagging about conspiracy theories, although Mr Lai explicitly said he did not believe the plot to kill him had anything to do with the Communist Party.