Veteran actress Lee Heung Kam, known for her roles in TVB dramas, died in a Hong Kong hospital on Monday (Jan 4). She was 88.
Her friend, fellow actress and opera singer Tam Sin Hung, confirmed the news to the Hong Kong media.
She revealed that the late actress had difficulties swallowing food over the past few days and was on a liquid diet.
She took a turn for the worse at home on Monday and was rushed to the hospital.
"Who would have thought that she would be gone just a few hours later," Tam added.
Reports in the media said that the actress' health had deteriorated rapidly in the past month and her family members were already mentally prepared for the worst.
Born on Jan 13, 1932, Lee was a native of Shunde in China's Guangdong Province who spent her childhood in Macau as her father ran a rice business there.
Lee began her acting career at 16, appearing in dozens of drama serials and movies over the decades. During the heyday of Cantonese movies, she made a name for herself playing the roles of scheming concubine and empress in period films.
Viewers of TVB dramas may remember her as the ruthless Abbess Miejue in New Heavenly Sword And Dragon Sabre (1986), alongside Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Sheren Tang. Or as Chow Yun Fat's long-suffering mother in the hit melodrama serial, The Brothers (1980).
Although best known for her TVB dramas, Lee had actually jumped ship to rival Hong Kong TV station ATV in 1990. She returned to TVB in 2006.
She was briefly married to Cantonese opera star, Siu Chung Kwan, with whom she had a daughter. They divorced in 1957, and her former husband and daughter left for Canada.
Her daughter, Siu Ji Wan, said in September last year that her mother suffered from poor memory.
This was at the funeral of fellow veteran actor and Lee's frequent acting partner Tam Ping Man, which Lee did not attend. Tam died at the age of 86 in September last year.
Lee had not appeared in public for a number of years and reportedly had mobility problems, relying on a wheelchair to get around.
At that time, Siu stated that her mother was in good health and was "as happy as a child".