Jin Xing, China's best known proponent of modern dance, will be making her debut performance in Hong Kong on October 26. And it's about time, she says. "I have performed all over the world, but not in Hong Kong. I think it's ridiculous," Jin says. Such outspokenness is typical of Jin, whose biting wit and remarkable life story as a transgender performer, businesswoman and parent have made her a cultural icon. She blames her absence from the Hong Kong stage on mainland bureaucracy: "My troupe is private, the first private dance troupe in China. The Ministry of Culture would never dispatch a private dance ensemble to an arts festival." Watch: A solo dance performance by Jin Xing This week, however, Jin is visiting Hong Kong as a special guest and alumnus of the Asian Cultural Council to mark its 50th anniversary; it was a scholarship from the council that enabled her to study modern dance in New York with greats such as Merce Cunningham in 1988, when Jin was still a man. Jin was born to an ethnic Korean family in Shenyang, Liaoning, in 1967. As a boy, he became fascinated with dance and at the age of nine, went on a two-day hunger strike to persuade his sceptical parents to let him join the People's Liberation Army ballet school. Besides the rigorous dance training, he also had to undergo weapons training and later rose to the rank of colonel in the PLA dance troupe. He grew up confused about his gender identity, and as a boy wished a lightning strike could magically transform him into a girl. After studying in the US, Jin worked in Europe for a number of years and didn't apply for sex reassignment surgery until he returned to China. In 1995, he received approval for the procedure - an experience Jin no longer wishes to revisit, in part because of constant media questions over the years: "That was such a long time ago. I have nothing more to say." All the same, she describes the transformation as "the biggest freedom" in her life. For a time, she lived the high life and opened a bar in Beijing that become a hotspot for artists and diplomats. In 2000, Jin set up her own dance troupe and, with official encouragement, relocated to Shanghai. That year, she also adopted the first of her three children, Leo. She later adopted a girl and a boy, Nini and Julian. It wasn't all smooth sailing, but she went on to dance and choreograph many acclaimed productions, taking her troupe to Europe and the US. She also appeared in stage plays and movies and served as a judge for talent contests. Her frequent appearances as a judge on popular talent shows such as the Chinese version of So You Think You Can Dance certainly raised her public profile. But what fans loved (and detractors hated) was her expansive personality and often acerbic wit. "People call me sharp-tongued in China. They say many people cannot stand my critical language. But Chinese society today needs this kind of language," Jin says. Whether it's because of her dancing or her sharp tongue, the public responded: all eight of her talk shows at the Shanghai Grand Theatre were sold out. "You couldn't get a ticket even if you were the party secretary of the Shanghai municipal government," Jin says, jokingly. It had long been a dream to be able to host her own talk show, but she was waiting for the right moment, she says. I would have died many times if I had cared about people's opinions Jin Xing, modern dancer "When I was 20, I wasn't qualified. At 30, I was not well prepared. Now I'm 47. I know I have the ability. I talk about family life, education, children, arts and politics, and I have my own opinions." She believes her experiences, insight and vision make her relatable to women and men, young and old, "and when I speak, I speak to a person rather than any gender". The reason her star is shining so brightly now is the result of many years of hard work and persistent pursuit of her goals, she says. And she's determined not to be a shooting star that vanishes after a flash of brilliance. "I have reached this position because the time is ripe," she says. "And once I'm on this stage, I will never come down. "One has to believe in what one is doing … No matter what changes, I'll stick to my dream." Tenacity aside, it has taken plenty of courage to forge her path in what is still a conservative society. Her success cannot be taken as an indicator of progress on LGBT issues in China, she says. "Society … is very cruel," Jin says. "But words can't hurt me. I couldn't care less about them unless they hurt me physically ... I would have died many times if I had cared about people's opinions." She doesn't like to whinge and believes the best way to change other people's views of her is to live her life. "I don't represent any group … I only want to be Jin Xing and do my best. I have some indirect influence on young people. But as for society, I think it will gradually become mature." These days, she splits her work hours equally between dance and talk shows. "I was born for the stage, and I express myself on the stage. But the form of expression can be in dance, talk shows or plays," she says. But that doesn't mean she's career-obsessed. "Family is the most important thing," she says. "I devote only five days a month to television [work]. The rest of the time, I practise dancing, spend time with my children or travel for more inspiration." Jin met her husband, German businessman Heinz-Gerd Oidtmann, on a flight to Paris, and they now share a home in Shanghai. Primarily, she dedicates herself to raising her three teenage children, helping her daughter with piano practice and worrying about how they would cope with the mainland educational system. "My oldest son is now attending boarding school in Britain," she says. "We can't afford to struggle under China's college entrance exams." Aged 47, her best dancing days may be behind her. Nonetheless, Jin's contributions to art are well recognised: the French government has honoured her, and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland awarded her an honorary doctorate of dance in July. For her premiere in Hong Kong, Jin will present a solo work about Chinese calligraphy and the guqin. Jin looks forward to returning to Hong Kong. "It's fun to go shopping and have meals in Hong Kong and catch up with old friends," Jin says. "But I can stay in Hong Kong for no more than three days. It's so crowded." " On Stage With Jin Xing", 5pm, October 26, Hong Kong Jockey Club Amphitheatre, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, 1 Gloucester Road, Wan Chai. Tickets and inquiries: Christina Chung at email@example.com; tel: 2895 0407. Public Outreach Dialogue, 6.30pm, October 27, Sir Run Run Shaw Hall, Chinese University; free.