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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

ASIAWEEK 1997
Twelve Months of Turning Points

Final Curtain Call
Players, big and small, who made their exits


Tang Wing-cheung

Fame came early to the doyen of Cantonese opera. Tang Wing-cheung, below, was a household name in Hong Kong at the age of 10. As Sun Ma Sze Tsang, he became one of the best-loved performers of the art. Later, the cinema provided not only a fresh vehicle for Tang's talents but also a wider audience in Asia. Besides opera films, he made a series of comedies in the 1950s and 1960s, often portraying hapless working-class figures. Tang's last, and most sensational, drama featured an all-family cast: his wife, a former nightclub hostess 30 years his junior, and ranged against her, their four children. And at the center of it all was the $40 million that Tang, 81, had amassed. Appearing nightly on prime-time television, the feuding family swapped allegations of abuse, dastardly schemes to siphon off the fortune, underworld figures and secret lovers. Tang's real-life soap opera kept viewers riveted even after he died in April: the children refused to let their mother attend his funeral. She turned up anyway -- with lawyers and bodyguards in tow.

Deng Xiaoping

In 1949 China finally "stood up" under Mao Zedong's leadership. But three decades later, it was tottering from his excesses. So it fell to Deng Xiaoping, right, the former "No. 2 capitalist roader" with a weakness for bridge and croissants, to start another revolution. The turning point: 1978, when he steered the Communist Party from its stultifying embrace of autarky toward the incentives of a market economy. In the process, he lifted a quarter of mankind from absolute poverty. Freed of the yoke of communes, farmers trebled their annual income to $1,000. Over the past 15 years, the economy grew by an average of 9%, and the new wealth was nowhere more evident than in the coastal cities. Economic liberalization loosened the party's control over everyday life. This relaxation was incidental, though. Ideology might be expedient to getting results, but Deng brooked no threat to the party's power. His stance was unequivocal -- from the 1957 persecution of intellectuals, to the 1989 crushing of Tiananmen protesters. When a conservative backlash threatened to stall his economic engine in 1992, Deng revived it by dint of his presence -- a tour of the go-getting southern provinces. His calls for "more opening up" catalyzed even more feverish expansion. By the time he died at the age of 92, China had become a global economic power. But in his pursuit of growth, Deng left major problems: a moral vacuum, widespread corruption and inefficient state-owned enterprises that could paralyze the financial system. His successors have the daunting task of overhauling the SOEs. And with the masses' rising expectations, they may yet have to give in to demands that Deng had refused to entertain -- social and political freedom.

Yahaya Ahmad

An industrialist's demise does not usually send a nation into shock and mourning. Malaysian "auto king," Yahaya Ahmad, right, was an exception. When he and wife died in a helicopter crash in March, the news cast a pall in Kuala Lumpur. Thousands later lined the roads to the couple's burial in Marang, the town where Yahaya grew up. For he embodied not just the new, dynamic face of bumiputra (indigenous) business, but also the country's hopes for the future. He was among the few entrepreneurs chosen to help realize Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's vision of a developed Malaysia. It was not mere personal ties that made Yahaya a key corporate player, though he was a school chum of deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim. The tycoon had already made his mark in car-assembly in 1995 when Mahathir offered him his big break -- the purchase of the government's controlling stake in Hicom, the conglomerate whose subsidiaries included the national car-maker Proton. Yahaya, 50, proved his mettle by revving up Proton and was fueling it for global competition when tragedy struck.

Princess Diana

Perhaps, as with John Kennedy, people will recall years later where they were when they learned of her death in a Paris car crash on Aug. 31. Diana, above, was a fairy princess who worked for causes ranging from children's welfare to the abolition of land mines. Hounded by the paparazzi, she considered leaving Britain, where, according to her brother, "her genuinely good intentions were sneered at by the media." This aspect of her life drew the sympathy of many Asians, especially in nations where royalty is revered. Yet Diana won over shrewd politicians, and her death, at 36, touched people all across the region. Hers was a charm that transcended national boundaries.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Before every match, Pakistan's cricket team listened to the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, right. They seldom lost. But on Aug. 16, they lost Nusrat to a heart attack. As doctors in London fought to save him, Nusrat, 48, told them: "Take care of my throat." It was his treasure. He was one of the greatest exponents of qawali, the devotional music of the Muslim Sufi sect. Audiences wept and danced at his voice. After he died, the press in Pakistan and India heralded him as the harbinger of peace between the nations. His singing always carried a message: love of God and mankind.

Mother Teresa

"We cannot do great things," she said. "Only small things with great love." Yet anyone who saw Mother Teresa care for the unwanted and the dying witnessed kindness bordering saintliness. After she died on Sept. 5, at age 87, heads of government gathered in Calcutta to accord a state funeral to the nun who won the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. But in a cruel irony, thousands of poor Indians, the people she sought to help, were barred from the ceremony. Albanian-born Teresa began her life in India as a school teacher. But she soon heard the call to "follow Christ into the slums," and founded the Missionaries of Charity. In an age of fleeting celebrity, she will be remembered as a real heroine.

Pai Hsiao-yen, 17, the daughter of a Taiwan television star, was raped and tortured before kidnappers dumped her naked body in a ditch. Coming after a series of brutal killings, her murder in April provoked outrage over deteriorating security -- and the removal of the interior minister. Police caught up with the two remaining culprits last month.

Michael de guzman, 41, a Filipino geologist, became entangled in possibly the biggest gold scam in history when Canadian mining firm Bre-X Minerals hired him to check its Busang site in Kalimantan. As estimates of the deposit rose, Bre-X stock rocketed and new partners joined, including the Indonesian government. Then, on March 19, de Guzman fell from a helicopter en route to meet auditors about his findings. Indonesian officials say he jumped, upset by diagnosis of an incurable disease. Others thought he was pushed. Whichever the case, his death heralded Bre-X's: it admitted a week later the Busang reserve had been "overstated." The next day, investors dumped some $2 billion in Bre-X stocks. By May, the shares were barely worth the paper they were printed on.

Bao dai, 83, became the last of Vietnam's Nguyen emperors when he fled after abdicating to Ho Chi Minh's nationalists in 1945. He returned briefly in 1949, but left for good after the French were finally crushed at Dien Bien Phu. He died in Paris.

Rolando Tinio, 60, the Philippines' caustic man of letters, devoted his life to advancing the local language. A prolific poet and writer, he helped establish Filipino-language drama in the 1970s. The driven Tinio was directing a musical when he died in Manila.

Yokoi Shoichi, 82, a former soldier of the Japanese Imperial Army, hid for some 26 years in jungles of Guam, unaware that war had ended. Yokoi, who lectured on survival training after returning to Japan, died in Nagoya.


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