Chinese actress Michelle Sima Yan has died, aged 51.

The former beauty pageant contestant passed away on Saturday (10Jan15) following a prolonged battle with stomach cancer, her family announced in a statement.

They said, "After a courageous battle against cancer, our true beloved Michelle Sima Yan has passed away peacefully in her sleep on Saturday. Thank you for always caring and at this extremely sad time, please accept the privacy of her family to grieve and bid her a last farewell."

Sima Yan catapulted to fame in the 1980s after entering the Miss Hong Kong pageant and she went on to become a film and television actress, often playing a sex symbol role, before retiring from the movie industry in 1996.

The star shared two sons with husband Togi Gouw, one of whom is famed Hong Kong actor and model Ian Gouw.