MADE in Hong Kong, that hoariest of cliches about the territory, just won't lie down and die. Ask anyone who has listened to a local radio station for more than 30 minutes and they'll confirm that, yes, Hong Kong's Chinese language pop songs sound great and are slickly produced, but are about as original as a knock-off watch, or toy car. With a music industry which supports more than 100 active recording artists but can count the number of songwriters on one hand, it is hardly surprising the territory is opening its doors ever wider to international acts - and specifically to the Japanese and Taiwanese singers whose hits are turned into Canto-pop covers almost as soon as they top the charts at home. It has been that way ever since the 'good old days' when 'retired' star Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing and Alan Tam Wing-lun were bumping and grinding on stage. Local compositions? Fine if they're good enough, but if not, then cover versions are the only way to go, says Michael Au Ting-yuk, among the first producers to turn Japanese songs into Canto-pop hits for the likes of Priscilla Chan Wai-han and Jacky Cheung Hok-yau. 'The cover versions can serve as an example to local songwriters and encourage them to try to achieve the same,' Au said in defence of the policy. The Japanese and Taiwanese aren't complaining: in return for the 'loan' of their songs, Hong Kong singers have had to give up a slice of their market as record companies expand their foreign repertoire and bring the 'original' artists to town. In the past two years, Taiwanese singers have been streaming into the territory in an effort to gain a foothold in the nascent mainland Chinese market. Zhang Yu, Eric Moo Chii Yuan, Huang An, Jonathan Li Zhong Cheng and Sarah Chen Shu-hwa all became big hits after their songs were covered by local singers. Alan Tam started the trend in the early '80s when he turned Japanese band Anzen Chitai into local stars by covering nearly half of their hits. Nothing, however, beats the crest of popularity currently being ridden by duo Chage & Aska, thanks largely to crooner Leon Lai Ming. While Taiwanese singers tend to re-locate to the territory, albeit temporarily, Japanese artists are more wont to perform live, probably because of the language problem. Hideki Saijo, Anzen Chitai and Chage & Aska have all given sell-out performances here. But as any of these artists can attest, making a name in the territory does not depend on whether your song is covered but on who covers it. Chage & Aska, whose early songs were covered by minor artists, only hit pay dirt with Lai. Zhang hitched a ride from Jacky Cheung, and the Malaysian-born, Taiwan-based Moo had a double whammy when first Tam then Cheung had hits with his songs. Cheung also brought another Japanese band, J-Walk, to prominence by turning their song Donnani Toki Ga Nagareta Atomo into the karaoke hit, Come And Go. It has given the band enough footing here to stage a December 15 concert at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium. As a mark of Cheung's influence, this is the six-member band's first foray into a foreign market in its 14-year history. J-Walk knows a good thing when it sees it: the band has worked on two songs for Cheung's new album, to be released this month. Mind you, the band still seems bemused by the Hong Kong industry. During a recent Japan tour, guitarist and unofficial leader Tomohisa Mitsuyasu explained: 'We don't know much about Hong Kong but J-Walk likes to perform anywhere where there's an audience who enjoys our music. We'd go anywhere - even the North Pole - if there was an audience.' Strangely, J-Walk has never heard the cover versions of its songs. 'I heard a demo tape but not the actual recording,' lead singer Nakamura Kouichi said. 'It was a very different style to what we usually do - it's more mellow while ours has a slightly harder rock edge. But naturally we're very delighted our songs have been covered.' Just having your songs covered by a Canto-pop king is not enough, however, to guarantee concert ticket sales. So, after some pre-concert research and promotion, J-Walk have played their trump card: Cheung will be making a guest appearance at the show.