CANDACE CHONG is a prolific, award-winning Hong Kong playwright, whose timely plays have captured the essence of the complicated Hong Kong Chinese identity. Written in Cantonese, her works have resonated deeply with a new generation of theatergoers in Hong Kong.
A Playwright Puts the Hong Kong Story on Center Stage
By Clare Tyrrell-Morin
Candace Chong Mui-ngam is one of Hong Kong’s most important new voices. The young playwright creates powerful, insightful plays that capture the Hong Kong zeitgeist, taking issues from the city’s headlines and weaving them into mesmerizing plot lines.
Her plays jolt her audience into wakefulness, demanding that they sit up and look deeply into all of society’s contradictions. With razor-sharp, black humor and a nuanced understanding of the human condition, Chong has been pulling a new generation of young Hong Kong intellectuals into theaters.
It is to Hong Kong’s credit that the city’s leading playwright is a woman. While theaters in the United States and Europe grapple with major gender imbalances, Hong Kong’s cultural scene has many women in top jobs. Candace Chong is rarely discussed as a woman playwright in Hong Kong; she’s simply known as the best of her generation.
I want to remind you all: journalism is the first rough draft of history. Please do not use your title as journalist in the prolonged illusion of free speech. Do not remain in this profession just to be a collaborator in burying the truth. — Prologue, Wild Boar, 2012
Chong’s play Wild Boar, commissioned and produced by the Hong Kong Arts Festival, debuted at the intimate Drama Theatre of the APA in February 2012 as protesters were camping out less than a mile away below the headquarters of HSBC, Hong Kong’s largest bank. They were reacting to record-high property prices and projects like the high-speed Guangzhou–Hong Kong Express Rail Link that was pushing families off their farms.
Property developers are a controversial species in Hong Kong, where seven million people live upon 427 square miles—one of the highest population densities on the planet. While the city has an exceptionally low income tax rate, its land tax is colossal. With extremely high rents, young people see the possibility of buying their own apartment to be increasingly remote. This has led to an atmosphere of simmering desperation.
Wild Boar, set in an unnamed city, opens with the news that a local historian has disappeared. “Our city and its culture are entering a period of regression,” says Ryan Yuen Man-san as he announces his resignation.
The veteran news editor is launching an independent press in a bid to protect the public’s “right to know.” When Wild Boar was rerun two years later in the summer of 2014, its themes of property developers and media censorship turned out to be shockingly prescient.
For more than a century, Hong Kong has enjoyed a free press and permitted newspapers of all persuasions—communist, nationalist and religious. Yet since the Handover in 1997, these freedoms have become murkier; journalists in 2014 experienced a wave of media intimidation.
The most horrific of these was a violent ambush on Kevin Lau Chun-to, the former editor-in-chief of Ming Pao, one of Hong Kong’s most respected, liberal Chinese newspapers. Lau was viciously attacked on the street, and severely injured, by men wielding cleavers. A week later, thousands of journalists and members of the public marched for press freedoms, holding placards that read: “They Can’t Kill Us All.”
Editor: Michelle Vosper
Publisher: Muse (East Slope Publishing Limited)
Publication Date: February 27, 2017
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