Andy Lau, Malaysian Woman Hounded by Press

Andy Lau’s return to Hong Kong Wednesday with former Malaysian beauty contestant Carol Zhu Liqian after attending her father’s funeral in Malaysia was one of the summer’s most intensely photographed events in the city. It rekindled long-running speculations about Lau’s true relationship with Zhu, a woman he has been dating for 25 years.

The most recent speculation centered on a supposed April 6 wedding date based on the fact that the day was Zhu’s 43rd birthday and on a remark made by Zhu’s aunt to a neighbor. Lau refused to comment and the wedding apparently did not take place.

The press has breathlessly tracked every sighting that seemed to link Lau and Zhu. One story reported that they had watched the Olympics together. Another that they had been spotted dining with Zhu’s family in a Malaysian restaurant sporting matching white suits.

In May of 2008 Lau — one of Hong Kong’s top Cantopop stars as well as its most famous actor — helped stoke fevered speculation of their intentions by singing a couple of songs while attending the wedding of Zhu’s sister.

In 2005 reports surfaced that Lau had built a HK$20 mil. ($2.4 mil.) mansion on a large lot in Malaysia and uses it as the couple’s secret home. The mansion is said to be lavishly decorated, well guarded and planted with Zhu’s favorite flowers, among them peonies and morning glories. As rumors had it, Lau and Zhu had been secretly married years earlier on the strength of his fondness for her gentle, low-key personality.

In 2001 Lau reportedly invested HK$10 mil. ($1.2 mil) in a travel agency Zhu opened in Hong Kong. Lau is sometimes reported to have been Miss Malaysia, though some dispute that she was more than a runner up.

Through it all Lau has steadfastly refused to confirm the existence of any intimate relationship with Zhu.

One tragic consequence of the rabid fascination with Lau was the 2007 suicide of a 68-year-old man from Beijing who was desperate to get a second meeting with Lau for his lovestruck daughter.