Fans pay tribute to Coco Lee, Hong Kong singer who had international success

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Fans line up near the Hong Kong Funeral Home, where a funeral is set up for Hong Kong singer and songwriter Coco Lee, in Hong Kong on Monday, July 31, 2023. Fans of singer and songwriter Coco Lee, who was known for her powerful voice and live performances, were gathering with flowers to pay their respects at her funeral in Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Annie Cheung)

HONG KONG – Fans of singer and songwriter Coco Lee, who was known for her powerful voice and live performances, gathered with flowers to pay their respects to their idol at her funeral in Hong Kong on Monday.

The memorial service was attended by her family and friends, including singers Elva Hsiao and Jenny Tseng, as well as other supporters. Lee died July 5 at age 48.

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She was born in Hong Kong and attended school in San Francisco before releasing her first album in 1994 at age 19. She began her career as a Mandopop singer but branched out to release albums in Cantonese and English.

She was the first Chinese singer to break into the American market, and her English song “Do You Want My Love” climbed to #4 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Breakouts chart in December 1999. In 2001, she sang “A Love Before Time” from Ang Lee’s movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” at the Academy Awards, becoming the first Chinese American to perform at the Oscars.

Lee was also the voice of heroine Fa Mulan in the Mandarin version of Disney’s “Mulan,” and sang the Mandarin version of the movie’s theme song “Reflection.”

Lee was married to Bruce Rockowitz, former CEO of Hong Kong supply chain company Li & Fung. She had two stepdaughters.

Her death had shocked fans. Her siblings posted on Facebook that she had depression for years and had attempted suicide at home on July 2. She died a few days later.

On Monday afternoon, more than 100 fans dressed in black were waiting outside the funeral home.

Lin Jing, a fan from Fujian province in the southeast, said she admired Lee's smile and appearance, adding: “She was really talented. She always tried to improve and she inspired women to feel independent."

Inside the funeral hall, three pink hearts made of flowers and other floral decorations were displayed below Lee's photo.

Her close friend, Hsiao, said during the ceremony that she remembered watching Lee's performances as a student and thinking of her as a perfect idol. After they became friends in the entertainment industry, Lee encouraged Hsiao when she was lost and treated her as “a little sister.”

“She brightened my life with her happiness and bravery. I will keep preserving her spirit,” Hsiao said in a quavering voice.

In a video for the memorial service, actors and singers from Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan recalled their memories with Lee and mourned her death.

Action star Jackie Chan said in the video that everyone was proud of her when she sang at the Oscars.

“To friends like us, Coco was a passionate and kind friend who showed care to us. She was really a good person. That's why we are so reluctant to accept she has left us,” he said.

Award-winning director Ang Lee recalled his exchanges with the late singer before the Oscars and said it was a pity she died so young. “We miss her very much. Coco, rest in peace," he said in the video.

Coco Lee had sounded notes of positivity in social media posts during the months before her death. In March, she posted about recuperating from surgery for an old leg injury.

“Successful surgery. Even though I’m in a lot of pain and I have to re-learn how to walk again, I know I can do it,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “Yes I can and I will!”


Associated Press video journalist Alice Fung and news assistant Annie Cheung contributed to this report.

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