The 'King of Robbers' inspired Hong Kong hit movie

Richie Ren plays the AK-47-toting Yip Kwok Foon in Hong Kong crime thriller Trivisa
PHOTO: The Star

Hong Kong King of Robbers Yip Kai-foon has died at the age of 55.

He was certified dead at 1.02am on April 19 at Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong.

This was confirmed by a press release from the Hong Kong Correctional Services.

Yip was serving time in Hong Kong's Stanley Prison after being convicted in 1996 for possession of arms and ammunition without licence and escaping from custody. He was sentenced to 41 years' imprisonment. The sentence was reduced by five years (to 36 years) after an appeal. He had been wheelchair-bound ever since he was shot in the spine following a gun battle at Kennedytown in May 1996.

The felon grabbed headlines in the 80s after holding off the police at Nathan Road while firing an AK-47 assault rifle as he robbed a string of jewellery stores. At the peak of his notoriety, Yip had a bounty of HK$1mil (RM565,680) on his head.


Yip Kai Foon

Yip Kai Foon.

This iconic shot has been a recurring image in many Cantonese crime thrillers. In fact, he was so legendary that he has been immortalised in Hong Kong cinema. As the most notorious armed robber in Hong Kong, Yip was the inspiration behind countless documentaries and big-screen depictions of robbers.

His most recent depiction on film was the 2016 smash hit Trivisa, which bagged five awards at the 36th Hong Kong Film Awards, including best film. Yip was played in the movie by Taiwanese singer-actor Richie Ren, along with two other infamous Hong Kong robbers - Cheung Tze-Keung (Jordan Chan) and Kwai Ping Hung (Gordon Lam, who nabbed the best actor award for his portrayal).

The first and most famous Yip tribute was the 1996 movie The King Of Robbery that starred Simon Yam as the titular character. In 2010 came The Most Dangerous Man starring Karel Wong. A documentary titled Hong Kong's King Of Thieves names him Hong Kong's most infamous jewel thief.

Born in Haifeng County, Guangdong, China, Yip was also known by nicknames such as Goosehead and The Man with The Dog Fangs.

Despite his violent image, Hong Kong legislator Leung Yiu-chung remembers Yip as a loving and optimistic man who cared about his fellow inmates. In prison, Yip turned to activism, fighting for prisoners' rights for the past 15 years with Leung's help.