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Bruce Lee

Fate of Bruce Lee's HK$100m Hong Kong mansion hangs in balance after tycoon owner Yu Panglin's death

Who holds the rights to the two-storey house in Kowloon Tong is unclear, as fans call for museum

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 September, 2015, 12:02am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 September, 2015, 11:26am

The fate of Bruce Lee's former Kowloon Tong residence has been thrown into doubt since its tycoon owner died in May, with uncertainty over who holds the rights to the two-storey house.

Fans of the late martial arts legend have called on the government to take action to preserve the site, worrying it will be demolished and sold following the death of Yu Panglin, the mainland businessman and philanthropist who pledged in 2010 to give his entire HK$9.3 billion fortune to charity.

Lee's daughter Shannon said she would support preserving her family's former home and turning it into a landmark should such a plan be put forward.

READ MORE: Why does Hong Kong refuse to honour its greatest son?

Peng Zhibin, a grandson of Yu, who is also known as Peng Lishan, says he does not know what the future holds for 41 Cumberland Road.

"We are still finalising the legal procedures [for the estate]," Peng said. "This can take six months to one year. We do not have any final decisions yet."

Yu had offered to donate the house to the government for it to be turned into a Bruce Lee museum, but he and officials failed to reach an agreement and the plan was scrapped in 2011.

Watch: Rare look inside Bruce Lee's house

Peng said most of the structure of the house had been changed, except for one wall.

He said he had not been in touch with any of Lee's descendents or fan organisations.

Shannon Lee said she was sorry to learn of Yu's death. She added that she would remain open to discussing converting the property into a museum or landmark of some sort.

"I wish I had the answer to how to go about preserving the house," she said. "Perhaps with the success of the exhibition at the Heritage Museum, the government or a civic-minded individual will step back in to reopen discussions with the family. I hope so and would lend my full support."

Read more: Bruce Lee's best moves

Infographic: Bruce Lee's best moves

The Bruce Lee exhibition currently running at the Heritage Museum in Sha Tin stemmed from the failed efforts to convert the property into a museum. The exhibition has been hugely popular, particularly among tourists, according to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

The show still has two more years to run but it is understood organisers are exploring the possibility of extending it.

Wong Yiu-keung, chairman of fan organisation the Bruce Lee Club, said the government should step in.

"What is the government's take on this?" Wong said. "Fans all over the world hope Lee's former residence can be preserved and made a gallery to commemorate our beloved star. But there's very little we can do."

Wong said the city was short of sites to commemorate Lee, who was known to the world as "Hong Kong's No1 son".

Even the HK$800,000 statue on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront was a joint effort by Lee fans from around the world, he said.

"Only the landlord and the government can make things happen," Wong said.

In 2008, Yu said he wanted to sell the property - estimated to be worth HK$100 million - to raise funds for victims of the Sichuan earthquake. At that time the building was being used as a short-stay love hotel.

Yu shelved the plan to sell after fans pleaded with him to preserve the 5,699 sq ft property, which was affectionately known as the "Crane's Nest" by Lee.

The kung fu legend spent his last years at the house with his family before his death in 1973.

As part of any deal however, Yu demanded the government relax the land usage restrictions and allow him to build two or three basement floors to increase the floor size so that the venue could feature a cinema, martial arts training centre, library and exhibition hall to make the proposed museum complete.

A design competition was held in 2009 to collect ideas for the museum. But eventually the Town Planning Board in 2011 refused to approve the application for the venture.