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Entertainment mogul Yang Teng-kuei dies at 74

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Yang Teng-kuei (楊登魁), a controversial and influential figure in Taiwan's entertainment, film and television industries, died of a stroke at Taipei Veterans General Hospital yesterday at the age of 74.

Yang had been hospitalized since Dec. 17 after suffering the stroke, according to a statement issued by Polyface Entertainment Media Group, which was founded by Yang in March 2011.

The statement said Yang's condition did not improve despite various types of treatment, including transcatheter arterial embolization.

His situation deteriorated further and he died at 5:12 a.m. Monday, with his family and many of his good friends by his side, the statement added.

Yang is credited with having helped nurture many of the entertainment industry's big stars in Taiwan and even in the entire Chinese-speaking community.

In the early years of his career, Yang and his partners operated a pop concert hall in the southern port city of Kaohsiung that became a landmark of Taiwan's variety show culture and a cradle of many local TV and movie personalities, including Yu Tien (余天) and Chang Fei (張菲).

Yang, a self-made man, also invested in filmmaking, which helped put actors and actresses from Taiwan, Hong Kong and China into the spotlight. Among them are Brigitte Lin, Sally Yeh and Jet Li.

Known for his outgoing and gregarious personality, Yang also allegedly had links with organized crime. When Taiwan launched its first major crackdown on organized crime in 1985, Yang was arrested and sent to the notorious but now defunct prison on Green Island off Taiwan's east coast, where he was kept for three years.

Following his release, Yang focused on filmmaking. “A City of Sadness,” (悲情城市) a 1989 production overseen by him, won the coveted best film award in the prestigious Venice International Film Festival in that year.

However, he was rounded up again shortly afterwards in a second crackdown on organized crime for allegedly operating underground gambling dens.

After a statute on compensation for those whose rights were impaired during the martial law era took effect in 1995, Yang applied for compensation on the grounds that he was imprisoned twice without legal trial. He eventually received NT$480,000 (US$16,494,85) in compensation.

In 1992, he set up Taiwan's first cable TV station, but later decided to live abroad for some years after a cable TV channel under his company was involved in a professional baseball gambling scandal.

After returning to Taipei, he set up GTV and produced a number of smash drama series, including Royal Tramp, which was based on noted Hong Kong writer Jin Yong's (金庸) novel of same name.

In 2011, he founded Polyface group with an ambition of investing up to NT$3 billion over five years to make Taiwan a new hub of global filmmaking and show business.

Yang said at the Polyface inaugural ceremony that the group was founded through the joint efforts of his friends in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China to lead the local entertainment industry onto the world stage. The group has since produced a number of hit movies.

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