Fans flock to Hong Kong to mark 50th anniversary of Bruce Lee’s death

By Joyce Zhou and James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Fans from Hong Kong and around the world gathered at the feet of a Bruce Lee statue on Thursday to pay tribute to the late kung fu legend on the 50th anniversary of his untimely death.

Standing in front of the life-size bronze statue with Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour behind them, a stream of fans snapped pictures, bowed and laid down flowers.

Others performed moves from Lee’s own brand of kung fu: “Jeet Kune Do”, and threw “nunchucks” – a chained double truncheon weapon that was popularised by Lee in several films.

Those who traveled to Hong Kong for the anniversary included people from mainland China, Asia and Europe.

“I have loved Bruce Lee since I was very young,” said Bruce Shin from South Korea who sported a brush cut and large framed sunglasses, imitating Lee.

“His body and figure was so mysterious. I wanted to be like him and did weight training for 50 years,” Shin added while making high pitched yelps and unleashing rapid-fire punches.

Lee, who was born in San Francisco but raised in Hong Kong, passed away at the age of 32 on July 20, 1973 from a brain swelling, just days before the release of his global blockbuster movie ‘Enter the Dragon’.

Lee’s contributions to martial arts and popular culture have inspired legions of global fans. But some see his legacy as a relic of the past in the former British colony.

The Wing Chun style of Kung Fu that Lee learnt from his former grandmaster Ip Man, is still taught in a number of schools, but it has been a struggle to win new disciples in the high-octane, skyscraper stacked metropolis.

One of Lee’s most famous maxims, “Be water, my friend,” from an interview in 1971, inspired Hong Kong’s 2019’s pro-democracy movement.

It provided a template for months of wildcat, city-wide protests against Beijing’s tightening grip of the global financial hub, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

“Could you have ever imagined that after half a century, one person could be remembered all around the world?” said Wong Yiu-keung, the chairman of the local Bruce Lee Club.

Sophie Uekawa, from Japan, said Lee transcended any one place.

“He’s Chinese but he’s cosmopolitan, he’s not bounded by a border. He is a human being under the sky … We have to tell the new generation about him and we have to carry on his spirit”.

(Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Emma Rumney)