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8 of the most influential Hongkongers in history

These iconic Hongkongers, past and present, have had some of the biggest impacts on our city and us that live in it.
Written by
Sam Evans

Hong Kong is an iconic city, that’s for sure. From its unique and incredibly varied cuisine to its breathtaking nature, to its out-of-this-world skyline that arguably surpasses that of any other city in the world, our home is awash with things that we can be very proud of. On top of all this, though let’s not forget the most important thing that makes Hong Kong what it is: the people. 

Over the years, our city has been home to some who have been particularly influential, whether it be in music or film, science or even architecture. Here are some of the most influential Hongkongers that have ever lived. 

RECOMMENDED: Check out our list of Hong Kong's lost buildings.

8 of the most influential Hongkongers in history

Anita Mui

This singing, dancing, and acting legend catapulted to fame at the tender age of 18 after winning the TVB’s New Talent Singing Awards, and from here went on to become a force in the Cantopop scene with multiple hit songs. Mui also played parts in a string of movies including the smash hits Behind the Yellow Line, Rouge (1988), Who's the WomanWho's the Man (1996), Wu Yen (2001), and July Rhapsody (2002). The Hong Kong superstar, unfortunately, succumbed to cancer back in 2004, but she will undoubtedly have a place in the hearts of Hongkongers for generations to come. 

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Andy Lau

The multi-talented Hong Kong idol Andy Lau has graced our screens, sung many of our classic songs, and for those old enough to know, was branded one of the four 'heavenly kings of cantopop'. Since the mid-80s he has been an idol that many Hongkongers have looked up to, having starred in more than 160 movies and, like many Hong Kong idols, has successfully and seamlessly juggled both singing and acting career. He has not only shaped and indelibly made his mark on the entertainment scene, but is actively involved in many charity works and is the holder of a Guinness world record for the most awards won by a cantopop male artist. All this begs the question: Is there anything he can't achieve? 

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Charles K. Kao

Sir Charles Kao will forever be remembered for the development of fibre optics in telecommunications. Known as 'the godfather of broadband' and 'the father of fibre optics', his groundbreaking work has made the modern Internet what it is today. Despite winning the 2009 Nobel Prize in physics, and other accolades, he has always remained humble and for many years served as the Vice Chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He encourages us that “ideas do not always come in a flash but by diligent trial-and-error experiments that take time and thought.” Hongkongers will always remember him as an educator and a true pioneer.

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I.M. Pei

Ieoh Ming Pei has dazzled the world with his architectural artistry. As a Chinese-American, his architectural career took off in America, but he spent many of his formative years in Hong Kong. Familiar with the Bank of China Tower? How about the instantly recognisable pyramid form of Paris’ Louvre Museum? Not to mention the countless works he led in Macau, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Beijing, and Colorado. Some say that "without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilisation." This is exactly what I.M. Pei has helped to do with his masterpieces; to strengthen the soul of many of the cities he has designed worldwide, not least our own!

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Lydia Shum

Nicknamed Fei-fei or Fei-jeh (Fat-sister in Cantonese), Lydia Shum Din Ha will forever be immortalised in the hearts of Hongkongers as the portly comedian who wore signature horn-rimmed glasses and a coiffed hairstyle. She brought such immeasurable joy to our television screens as the host and symbol of the show Enjoy Yourself Tonight (歡樂今宵). As well as being a talk show host, she was a singer with the musical group Four Golden Flowers (四朵金花), and also starred in many prominent movies. Evidence of her world-wide influence can be found when considering how the mayor of Vancouver proclaimed June 1 – her lunar calendar birthday – to be Fei Fei Day back in 2008. Unfortunately, the star passed away from health complications, but one thing’s for sure, there’ll never be another Fei-fei who can replace ours.

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Leslie Cheung

Leslie Cheung rose to fame in the late 70s and early 80s and dominated Hong Kong and Asia’s entertainment scenes as one of the biggest stars for a quarter of a century. He starred in iconic movies such as Days of Being Wild (1990), Farewell My Concubine (1993), and Rouge (1998) alongside Anita Mui. His glittering career came to an end in 2003 when, to the shock and heartbreak of fans, Cheung committed suicide. It has now been 17 years since his death, but Leslie Cheung will forever remain one of Hong Kong’s favourite sons. 

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Professor Yuen Kwok-yung

As the head of microbiology and infectious diseases at Hong Kong University, Professor Yuen wears many hats – he is a microbiologist, a surgeon, a physician, and chairman of the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection’s Expert Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance. He is currently heavily involved in providing advice to the government and was one of the leading figures in the fight against SARS in 2003. This Hong Kong hero’s advice is: “There is no winning formula; being hardworking, curious, caring, and kind can never go wrong.”

                       Photograph: Courtesy

Bruce Lee

Perhaps the most iconic of them all, Bruce Lee transcended stardom in his homeland to become an international sensation during the 60s and early 70s. Adored the world over for movies like Fist of Fury (1972)Enter the Dragon (1973) and Game of Death (1978), to name just a few. Growing up in Hong Kong, Lee eventually moved to the United States as a young man, where he studied martial arts and became the icon that the world knows him as today. Movies aside, he was also an excellent martial artist and instructor, and created the Jeet Kune Do – the way of the intercepting fist – combat style. Through all of his work, Lee can be credited as to have single-handedly changed the international perceptions of what it is to be an Asian male.

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