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Lesbian ‘moved’ by father’s $65-million offer to men to woo her

Gigi Chao, the daughter of Hong Kong property tycoon Cecil Chao Sze-tsung, poses at the conference room of her office in Hong Kong September 27, 2012.

BOBBY YIP/REUTERS

The newly married lesbian daughter of a Hong Kong tycoon who offered a $65-million "marriage bounty" to any man able to win her love, on Thursday said she'd been flooded by marriage proposals but harboured no animosity toward her father.

Since Hong Kong property billionaire Cecil Chao, known in the tabloid media for his prolific womanizing, dangled a $65-million reward for any man able to lead his daughter, Gigi Chao, down the aisle, she says she's been bombarded by marriage proposals from strangers, date requests and even an offer from a Hollywood film producer to buy her story.

"War veterans from the U.S., someone from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, from Istanbul, South America, Portugal, really just from all over the world," said Ms. Chao, sifting through e-mails on a white Apple laptop in her father's high-rise office tower.

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One suitor from the United States wrote: "I'm interested in your offer to wed your daughter, who also happens to be gay. I am a male person, who also happens to be gay."

Another put up his brother, a body double to George Clooney in the 2008 sports flick Leatherheads as a potential mate: "He could be the picture perfect date that your father craves."

"I've tried my best to respond to well-meaning ones … but most of them I just try not to open," added the frizzy-haired Ms. Chao, who was wearing a silver ring after what she called a "church blessing" with her girlfriend in a Paris church.

Ms. Chao said her billionaire father, who drives a Rolls Royce and flies a helicopter but had a poor early childhood in Shanghai, had been upset when his daughter's long-time lover revealed the couple had wed in Paris in April, leading to his impromptu "marriage bounty" offer to any man able to set her straight.

"I wasn't angry at all. I was really quite touched, very touched and very … how should I say? … moved by Daddy's announcement," said the 33-year-old.

"I mean, it's really his way of saying 'Baby girl, I love you. You deserve more,' basically," added Ms. Chao who works as an executive director in the family firm Cheuk Nang Holdings.

Her 76-year-old father, rarely seen without sunglasses and brand-name clothes, has never married but has boasted of bedding over 10,000 women including models and starlets.

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Hong Kong, a freewheeling city that reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997, retains a traditional Chinese social fabric but is considered relatively tolerant of alternative lifestyles compared with the rest of Asia. It decriminalized homosexuality in 1991.

It has gay social venues, film festivals and gay-pride parades, making it a bastion of liberalism compared with China, where homosexuality was defined as a mental disorder until 2001.

"I'm not able to generalize about the experiences of all people in the gay community, but I think we, in Hong Kong at the moment, are in the middle. We're not punishable by death for being gay, but it's not celebrated and obviously never encouraged," said Ms. Chao. "I think change is overdue."

Some hope the comedy value of the whole high-profile father-daughter drama could help start a constructive dialogue about gay attitudes in the region.

"Starting a conversation with humour always makes people less aggressive," said James Gannaban, the organizer of an annual Mr. Gay Hong Kong pageant, in a local gay bar. "If people are less militant about issues, then there is greater opportunity for conversation, if we start off with a smile."

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