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Daughter of H.K. tycoon issues plea on sexuality

AFP-JIJI, AP

The lesbian daughter of a Hong Kong tycoon who offered more than $100 million to find her a male suitor has issued a heartfelt open letter urging him to accept her sexuality.

In the letter, which starts “Dear Daddy,” socialite Gigi Chao asked her father, Cecil, to treat her partner, Sean Eav, as “a normal, dignified human being.” The pair have been together for nine years and are reported to have married in 2012 in France.

“I know it’s difficult for you to understand how I could feel romantically attracted to a woman; I suppose I can’t really explain it either. It just happens, peacefully and gently,” she wrote in the letter, which was published in the South China Morning Post on Wednesday and circulated to other Hong Kong media.

Her plea came after property developer Chao, 77, who refuses to recognize that she is a lesbian, was reported last week to have doubled the “marriage bounty” on his daughter to $1 billion Hong Kong dollars ($129 million).

Cecil Chao made world headlines in 2012 when he tried to find a man who could successfully win his daughter away from her partner by offering HK$500 million ($64 million), an offer that a Malaysian newspaper that interviewed him last week said he has now doubled.

The tycoon made his offer after learning that his daughter had eloped with her partner to France, where they had a church blessing. While Hong Kong decriminalized homosexuality in 1991, it does not legally recognize same-sex marriage.

The first bounty attracted 20,000 candidates, with the bizarre dowry attempt making international headlines.

In her letter, the 33-year-old said she forgave her father because he was acting in her best interests. And she took responsibility for “misleading” him into thinking there might be other options for her, writing: “I’m sorry to mislead you to think I was only in a lesbian relationship because there was a shortage of good, suitable men in Hong Kong. There are plenty of good men. They are just not for me.”

Chao added “it would mean the world to me if you could just not be so terrified of her, and treat her like a normal, dignified human being.” She has since confirmed penning the letter.

In the plaintive message, she tells her father of her sadness that he was unable to share in the life she had made for herself.

“My regret is that you have no idea how happy I am with my life, and there are aspects of my life that you don’t share,” she wrote. “I will always forgive you for thinking the way you do, because I know you think you are acting in my best interests.”

Cecil Chao, who owns publicly listed property developer Cheuk Nang, has a reputation for being a playboy. A fixture of Hong Kong high society, he has never married and regularly appears at public events with his latest young girlfriend. He reportedly once claimed to have slept with 10,000 women. Gigi Chao is one of his three children by three different women.

British movie maker Sacha Baron Cohen is reportedly working on a film based on the story.