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Sensing his lot would not improve, Chung quit RTV after around a year and became an insurance agent. Chung says the personal insurance industry was fairly new at the time and people in Hong Kong were not very accepting of it. “Once people heard of it [the insurance industry], they would be terrified. But I like to face challenges, so I decided to go for such a difficult job,” he says.

A young Chung
A young  Simon Chung

As Leslie Cheung’s star rose, Chung toiled away in the insurance field for more than 20 years. But he has never regretted his decision. “What you saw was the fruits of [Leslie Cheung’s] success, but what you didn’t see was the process, which was actually tough and sometimes very unhappy.”

Chung says the most amazing thing about life is that you can enjoy the process and gain satisfaction in whatever you do. He says he was content in his job as an insurance agent because he received support from his clients and rewards from his boss.

In any case, he says he never completely stepped away from music because he composed songs in his spare time and performed at the annual balls or Christmas parties of companies. Music has always been an indispensable part of his life, it was just that he temporarily let it become a side job.

Ironically, it took a bad year for Chung to start a journey that would put music first again. In 2003, Hong Kong was ravaged by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and economic recession and Chung had to develop his career in mainland China. In the same year, he was diagnosed with a serious cardiac disease and the doctor told him he had just a 50 per cent chance of survival.

After struggling for two years over whether to undergo surgery for a coronary artery bypass, Chung finally made up his mind in 2005 when his condition worsened.

As he was wheeled into the operating room, Chung says his mind turned to music. “I promised myself that if I could walk out of this hospital, I would do nothing else but go back to singing,” he says.

In 2007, after fully recovering from the surgery, Chung joined some friends to enter a national rock band competition in Guangzhou. An owner of an Irish pub in Guangzhou spotted Chung in the competition and invited him to perform at the pub.

At first, Chung and his band were ignored by the expat customers. But he managed to command their attention by performing some classic rock songs from the 1960s to 1990s. He says many people even flew to Guangzhou just to watch their performances.

In 2012, a crew from Guangdong Television came to interview him and reported on the band’s achievements. Guangdong Television then recommended the band to a production team of a Liaoning TV talent contest, The X Factor: Ji Qing Chang Xiang. Chung was invited to join the competition as a rocker.