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Leslie Cheung: Asia’s gay icon lives on 15 years after his death

Image copyright REX/Shutterstock
Image caption Leslie Cheung was one of the most popular male singers and actors of the mid-1980s

For the past 15 years fans of tormented superstar Leslie Cheung, one of the first celebrities to come out as gay in Asia, have gathered at Hong Kong's Mandarin Oriental Hotel to mourn the day he took his own life.

It's a poignant sign of why the daring and troubled star is still important today.

One of Hong Kong's most popular male singers and actors of the mid-1980s, Leslie Cheung Kwok Wing was not afraid of provoking controversy with his overt sexuality and provocative performances during a more socially conservative era.

And 15 years after his death, Cheung is still attracting new fans, including teenagers and millennials.

Lam, a 15-year-old who attended 1 April's vigil, was only a few months old when Cheung died. She told BBC Chinese she had "discovered him on YouTube".

"He was charismatic; especially when he went androgynous…it's gorgeous," she said.

Meanwhile, 25-year-old Wu travelled from Hunan province on mainland China with his boyfriend to mourn the icon.

Wu told BBC Chinese he drew strength from Cheung's "spirit of being true to oneself".

"He showed the [Chinese-speaking] world that gay people can be positive, bright and worthy of respect."

Image copyright BBC Chinese
Image caption Cinematographer Christopher Doyle says Leslie was "not only a great singer or actor, but a rarely-seen true star"

Born in 1962, Leslie Cheung was one of Hong Kong's most famous stars during the golden era of Cantopop in the 1980s.

He was dashing, stylish and fitted the public idea of a perfect heterosexual male lover. But in reality, he was in a long-term relationship with his childhood friend, Daffy Tong.

It was not an easy time to be gay. At that time, homosexuality was still viewed by many as an illness and abnormality in Hong Kong, especially after the emergence of the first local case of Aids in 1984. It was not until 1991 that adult gay sex was decriminalised in the territory.

"The LGBT movement in Hong Kong took off in the 1990s, when the community finally became visible to the public," Travis Kong, an associate professor of sociology researching gay culture at The University of Hong Kong, told BBC Chinese.

And it was at this point that Cheung became more daring in his work.

Image copyright Tomson (HK) Films Co., Ltd.
Image caption Cheung as an androgynous Peking Opera star in Farewell My Concubine

He first came to international attention with his portrayal of Cheng Dieyi, the androgynous Peking Opera star, for the film Farewell My Concubine, which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1993.

He went on to star in Happy Together directed by Wong Kar Wai – a gay cinema classic about a couple who struggle to find a peaceful co-existence.

"Happy Together is different. It is a stereotypical heterosexual romance, but played by two men," said Kit Hung, a Hong Kong director.

Meanwhile, Christopher Doyle, the renowned cinematographer who worked with Cheung on various Wong Kar Wai films, told BBC Chinese: "He was so beautiful. We both wanted to convey through my lens the most beautiful, sincerest side of him.

"He enters our imagination audaciously… always showing us better possibilities."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Leslie Cheung is remembered both for his films and music performances – and even has his own waxwork at Madame Tussauds

On stage, Cheung unleashed a sexually fluid charm. His defining queer performance came in a 1997 concert where he danced intimately with a male dancer to his song Red. He wore a black suit with a pair of sparkling crimson high-heels.

At that concert he dedicated a classic love song to the two "loves of his life", his mother and his partner Daffy Tong. This is seen as the moment he came out of the closet. Cheung did not proclaim his sexuality as such, but confessed his love for a man.

"In the 1990s, at times a gay man was still called 'Aids man' and 'pervert'," says Mr Kong. "In a society so oppressive to the LGBT community, the coming out of such a renowned superstar had a huge effect on the general public."

Despite his success across Asia, there were many who did not appreciate this side of Cheung.

At the 1998 Hong Kong Film Awards, Happy Together was mocked by comedians, who described it as a film that would make the audience vomit. A music video he directed, featuring him topless with a male ballet dancer, was also censored by major local TV channel TVB.

Image copyright PAN LEI
Image caption Cheung's versatile images on stage ignited controversies

In 2000 Leslie became the first Asian star to wear a tailor-made costume by French fashion master Jean-Paul Gaultier in a concert. With waist-length hair, clearly visible stubble and a muscular build, Cheung also wore tight transparent trousers and a short skirt.

He ended the concert with his self-revealing ballad I. "The theme of my performance is this: The most important thing in life, apart from love, is to appreciate your own self," he explained.

"I won't hide, I will live my life the way I like under the bright light" he sang. "I am what I am, firelight of a different colour."

But he was dismissed as a "transvestite", "perverted" or "haunted by a female ghost" in local media. He would dismiss that criticism as superficial and short-sighted.

He remains such an iconic figure in Hong Kong's awakening to LGBT issues that the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is even the first stop of a walking tour on the city's LGBT history.

Image copyright BBC Chinese
Image caption Crowds at Mandarin Oriental on the 15th anniversary of Cheung's death
Image copyright BBC Chinese
Image caption Fans recreated Cheung's signature crimson high heels in Roses

It was from here that he jumped to his death on 1 April 2003 after a long struggle with depression. It was a shocking moment for the city, and a devastating moment for fans.

Tens of thousands turned out to bid him farewell and at the funeral, his partner Daffy Tong assumed the role traditionally preserved for the surviving spouse, a profound, public recognition of their relationship.

Never legally married, Mr Tong's was the first name listed on the family's announcement of Cheung's death, credited "Love of His Life".

Same-sex marriage or civil unions are still not legal in Hong Kong, but in the city's collective memory, Cheung and Tong are fondly remembered as an iconic, loving couple.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Daffy Tong beside a waxwork of Leslie Cheung at Madame Tussauds in Hong Kong

Hong Kong still lacks anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT communities but queer identity and sexual fluidity are no longer so taboo and are part of the social landscape.

Last year a museum in Hong Kong held an exhibition "Ambiguously Yours: Gender in Hong Kong Popular Culture". The first exhibit visitors encountered upon entering the venue was a pair of sparkling crimson high-heels – the pair Cheung wore performing Red in 1997.

"The highest achievement for a performer is to embody both genders at the same time," Cheung once proclaimed: "For art itself is genderless."

If you are feeling emotionally distressed and would like details of organisations which offer advice and support, click here. In the UK you can call for free, at any time, to hear recorded information on 0800 066 066. In Hong Kong you can get help here.

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Dallas officer fired for killing innocent man in his own apartment

Image copyright Kaufman County Jail/ Botham Shem Jean/Facebook

A Dallas police officer who fatally shot a black man inside his own flat, saying she confused it for her own home, has been fired.

Amber Guyger "engaged in adverse conduct when she was arrested for manslaughter", police said in a press release on Monday.

Botham Shem Jean died on 6 September, after Ms Guyger entered his home in the building where they both lived.

Ms Guyger, 30, is currently out on bail, pending a criminal trial.

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Dallas Police Chief U Renee Hall terminated her employment during a hearing on Monday, police said, adding that she has the right to appeal.

She had been on administrative leave, as activists called for her immediate firing.

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pic.twitter.com/Bvt4ixHGsl

— Dallas Police Dept (@DallasPD) September 24, 2018

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Court records show Ms Guyger had just finished a 15-hour shift when she parked in the wrong garage before making what was apparently a tragic error.

Ms Guyger entered the apartment after finding the door ajar, and saw Mr Jean, 26, in the darkness as a "large silhouette", according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

She said she gave verbal commands that he ignored, so she fired her weapon.

The arrest warrant affidavit, written by the Texas Rangers, differs slightly from the search warrant affidavit by Dallas police, local media report.

The search warrant statement says Mr Jean "confronted the officer at the door".

Neither document specifically states how close Ms Guyger was to Mr Jean when she shot him.

Police have been criticised for not immediately identifying the officer that killed Mr Jean, whom the mayor called a "model citizen".

After revealing that they had found marijuana at his home, a lawyer for his family accused the police force of trying to "smear" his reputation.

Mr Jean grew up on the Caribbean island of St Lucia and went on to work for the professional services giant PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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Meghan and Harry go head-to-head in netball shootout

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Image caption The Duke and Duchess of Sussex laughed their way through the netball shootout

Dancer Ginger Rogers famously did everything her partner Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.

And the Duchess of Sussex seemed to have taken the example to heart when she took on her husband Prince Harry in a netball shootout.

Meghan arrived in towering stiletto heels for an awards ceremony at Loughborough University – but still got stuck into a sports masterclass.

The royal couple were snapped laughing their way through the on-court contest.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Duke and Duchess clearly enjoyed their sporting face-off
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Meghan's blue Oscar de la Renta top and Altuzarra trousers made for an unconventional netball ensemble, as did Harry's shirt and suit
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Prince Harry was also unusually dressed for the netball court

Meghan was joined by a roster of sports stars including tennis player Laura Robson, gymnastics coach Scott Hann, and England netballer Eboni Beckford-Chambers – an obvious advantage, you might think.

Not to be outdone, Harry's team got a boost from ex-US basketball star David Robinson, as well as marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe, former England cricketer (and Strictly Come Dancing champion) Mark Ramprakash, and ex-England rugby player Ugo Monye.

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The Sussexes are clearly enjoying the masterclass with England netballer Eboni Beckford-Chambers! pic.twitter.com/3nPCfkAKd5

— Omid Scobie (@scobie) September 24, 2018

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Harry and Meghan were at the university to present awards to graduates of Coach Core, an apprenticeship programme that trains unemployed young people to be sports coaches and mentors.

It was founded through the Royal Foundation following the 2012 London Olympics. The Foundation was set up as a vehicle for Prince William and Prince Harry's charitable work in 2009.

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The Coach Core programme is set to double its reach over the next three years, adding 10 new sites thanks to a £995,500 National Lottery grant.

Harry's team ultimately won the netball skill test – but if Meghan wants a rematch, she needn't look far for a willing teammate.

Her sister-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, is never one to dodge a sporting challenge – no matter how unorthodox her attire.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Duchess of Cambridge is handy with a hockey stick – even in heels

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Brexit: Flights ‘at risk’ under no-deal, government warns

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A no-deal Brexit could cause disruption to air travel between the UK and European Union countries, the government warned on Monday.

This worst-case scenario is set out in the latest batch of documents outlining what what would happen to key industries if no agreement is reached.

Bus and coach services to EU countries could also be suspended in the event of no deal.

The government wants the EU and UK to accept each other's aviation standards.

However, the EU has not yet done so and will stop recognising UK safety standards if there is a hard Brexit.

"If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no agreement in place, UK and EU licensed airlines would lose the automatic right to operate air services between the UK and the EU without seeking advance permission," the government said.

Disruption 'not in EU's interests'

The UK "would envisage" allowing EU airlines to continue flying and "we would expect EU countries to reciprocate in turn", according to the document.

It added: "It would not be in the interest of any EU country or the UK to restrict the choice of destinations that could be served, though if such permissions are not granted, there could be disruption to some flights."

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The warning does not necessarily mean that flights would be grounded the day after Brexit.

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Image caption The UK government says it is 'confident' that there will be no disruption to air travel after Brexit

According to Airlines UK, which represents 13 UK-registered carriers, the European Commission has said it would put in place a "bare bones" aviation agreement with the UK to keep planes flying and to cover safety issues.

Tim Alderslade, the trade body's chief executive, said airlines expected the EU and UK to reach a new agreement on aviation.

"Whilst we don't support a no-deal Brexit, we welcome that both the UK and the EU are proposing in this event a minimum agreement that would cover flight and safety requirements for the benefit of both passenger and cargo services," he said.

ADS Group, which represents the UK's aerospace, defence, security and space sectors, has called for Britain to remain a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

It said talks should be held between the Civil Aviation Authority and the EASA to address the complex issues involved and ensure flights are not disrupted.

Analysis: Chris Morris, BBC Reality Check correspondent

The no deal notices the government published this afternoon will make uncomfortable reading for many businesses and consumers, but also for the government.

In dry, technical language they make clear that many aspects of day-to-day life could be affected significantly if the UK leaves the EU with no deal at all, including air and coach travel (which could in theory come to a temporary halt) food labelling, driving in Europe for business or pleasure, and taking your pet across the Channel.

The government argues that these warnings represent contingency planning for a worst case scenario, but until they can guarantee that a deal will be done, preparations will have to be made.

And with time running out, people will have to start acting on some of the advice as soon as November. The prospect of a no deal Brexit is beginning to loom large.

Flights between the UK and 17 non-EU countries, such as the US, Canada, Switzerland and Iceland, operate due to the UK being an EU member.

The guidance states that "replacement arrangements will be in place before exit day".

The UK has already reached agreements with some of these countries and is "confident the remaining agreements will be agreed well in advance of the UK leaving the EU", the government said.

A separate government document warned that UK passengers may have to undergo extra security screening when changing flights in the EU after Brexit.

Neither passengers nor their luggage are usually rescanned when connecting at other EU airports after flying from the UK.

However, new advice states that could change if the EU failed to recognise the UK's aviation security standards after Brexit.

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Oil prices surge to near four-year high

Oil prices have jumped to the highest level for nearly four years after Saudi Arabia and Russia ruled out any immediate increase in production.

The decision on Sunday was effectively a rebuff to US President Donald Trump, who has called for immediate action to raise global supply.

Brent crude rose more than 3% to more than $81 a barrel on Monday, its highest level since November 2014.

Saudi Arabia dominates the OPEC group of oil-producing nations and Russia is its biggest oil-producer ally outside the group.

They have reportedly been discussing raising output by half a million barrels a day to counter falling supply from Iran.

But a meeting of OPEC and non-OPEC energy ministers in Algiers ended without any formal recommendation for a supply boost.

Mr Trump said last week that OPEC "must get prices down".

Experts estimate that once US sanctions on Iran are fully implemented from November it could result in the loss of as many as two million barrels a day from global supply.

Commodity traders Trafigura and Mercuria said they expected Brent crude to climb above $90 by Christmas and to pass $100 early in 2019.

BNP Paribas oil strategist Harry Tchilinguirian told Reuters Global Oil Forum: "It is now increasingly evident, that in the face of producers reluctant to raise output, the market will be confronted with supply gaps in the next three to six months that it will need to resolve through higher oil prices."

Higher prices tend to mean higher petrol costs.

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However the AA has said other factors, including the strengthening pound over recent weeks, means that wholesale prices have fallen, and that this should help keep the lid on costs.

Meanwhile, higher oil prices tend to benefit UK-listed companies such as BP and Royal Dutch Shell, which employ thousands of people in the North Sea and whose shares are staples in many UK pension funds.

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Trump news: US Deputy Attorney Rosenstein heads to White House ‘to resign’ amid Russia row

US Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election, is on his way to the White House amid reports he will resign in anticipation of being fired by President Donald Trump.

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