March 31 marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Hong Kong movie star Tina Leung Kwok-hing, aka Ti Na, yet her legendary life - both on and off the screen - still inspires and captivates
Often referred to as an enigma in Hong Kong's entertainment world, Tina Leung Kwok-hing - widely known as Ti Na - led a colourful life both on and off screen. She passed away at the age of 65 in the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital on March 31, 2010, due to multiple organ failure.
Throughout Leung's cinematic career, mainly in the 1960s and 1970s, she made 54 films. Although she later left showbiz and engaged in different businesses both in Hong Kong and mainland China, her performances are remembered.
From the nude scene in the movie The Warlord in 1972 to the espionage she engaged in, we take a look back at the adventurous life of the legendary screen siren.
Although Leung starred in many movies in the 1960s, it was her role in the late director Li Han-hsiang's The Warlord in 1972 that etched her sultry image indelibly into Hong Kong's collective memory.
She revealed the story behind the nude scene in her fourth book, an autobiography named Movies - My Absurdity, published in 2010, saying that she was actually tricked by the director. The director said the scene would be veiled by gauze.
"He said the camera would be 'placed far away from you and would only reveal your waist'," Leung wrote. "But it turned out another camera was placed in an unlighted position out of my view that got a panoramic view (of the bedroom)," she wrote.
In an interview with the Chinese-language East Week magazine in 2009, Leung said of this scene, "I have done some stupid things in the past. To this day, people still use the pictures of the sexy scene … It is more important that you should study more to increase your knowledge, and to make yourself smarter." she said.
Before joining the Cathay Organisation H.K. Ltd. in 1965, one of Hong Kong's top movie studios at that time, Leung had already shot two films in Thailand. However, the actress was more than just a sex symbol. She was also a patriot who once openly admitted that she was a communist sympathiser.
In an interview with Cable TV in 2008, she admitted that by taking advantage of her popularity in Thailand and her relations with the Thai leadership at that time, she had collected intelligence for China. "The first film I made was entitled Spy and I was a real-life spy," she said in the interview. Her love-hate relationship with communism was revealed in her tirade against the June 4 Tiananmen crackdown in her book, War Tactics: The Corporate War in Beijing.
Knowing that showbiz was not going to provide her with a livelihood, Leung established her own business as well. However, she declared bankruptcy for her company in 1974. It was reported that she had accumulated HK$200 million in debts, which she repaid over the next four years. The news again created a sensation in Hong Kong at that time.
After recovering from her debts, Leung's patriotism brought her back to mainland China to seek business and join the cause of "serving the people". She then proved herself a savvy businesswoman.
In the late 1970s, she started meeting high government officials in Beijing and claimed credit for the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the US. She also helped China acquire sophisticated military and aeronautical equipment.
She was also an investor in the aerospace and satellite industry. By the 1980s, almost all mainland airports had adopted the global positioning system developed by her company.
In the 1990s, she became the marketer for Galileo, a global satellite navigation system launched by the European Space Agency.
Leung's life, family and love affairs were constantly under the spotlight. Among all the tycoons and celebrities wooing her, Leung married Ma Yik-cheung in 1968, who was a sports coach. What wowed the public was that Leung was already pregnant by the time she tied the knot with Ma. Her daughter, Matina, was born several months after they married.
The couple divorced in 1972. In 1990, Leung married Luo Yu, the son of former revolutionary Chinese general Luo Ruiqing.
When Matina turned 25, she told her mother she was experiencing gender incongruence and wanted to undergo a sex-change operation. Leung revealed in one of her books that she agonised over the decision for years and she finally agreed with Martina and supported her for the surgery.
"I saw how my child developed a stooped back as she tried to cover her female attributes on the chest by leaning herself forward when walking. It was heart wrenching," she wrote.
"I knew (the sex-change operation) would be a bumpy ride, but how can I let her go on the quest on her own?"
Matina finally became Michael at the age of 30 and settled in Europe. He came back to Hong Kong and looked after her beloved mother until her death.
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