Infamous Hong Kong thief Yip Kai-foon, known for robbing jewelry stores in the 1980s and 1990s, has died on Wednesday morning aged 55.

The Hong Kong Correctional Services said in a press release that a man sentenced to 41 years’ imprisonment died at 1:02am on Wednesday in a public hospital. He was convicted in 1996 for possession of arms and ammunition without licence and escape from legal custody. His sentence was reduced by five years after an appeal.

The man in the footage on the left is widely believed to be Yip Kai-foon, though he denied it. Photo: TVB screenshot/HKFP remix.

Yip is known for robbing Hong Kong jewellery stores using firearms such as AK-47s, and even operating across the mainland border. He was seen as one of three “king of thieves” of his era alongside fellow robbers Chueng Tze-keung and Kwai Ping-hung.

In May 1996, he was arrested following a firefight with police after disembarking from a boat at the Kennedy Town pier. He was shot and left paralysed below the waist.

Held at Stanley Prison, Yip later claimed to have converted to Christianity. He was convicted for assaulting a correctional services officer in 2009, but suffered from cancer in recent years.

“He was sent to a public hospital for treatment on April 1 because of physical discomfort,” said the Correctional Services on Wednesday. “During hospitalisation, his condition deteriorated and was certified dead at 1:02am today.”

“The case has been reported to the police. A death inquest will be held by the Coroner’s Court.”

Trivisa, a crime thriller that won the “best film” category at the Hong Kong Film Awards just last week, was partly inspired by Yip’s life story – featuring a thief named “Yip Kwok-foon.”

Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.