While she was working on the play, Chong says she saw Hong Kong’s press freedom being challenged again and again with the media landscape changing faster than she had imagined. People feel that media organisations are controlled by the government while the voices of Hong Kongers are vanishing. “[People think that] there’s nothing we can do. Just let it be. But I don’t think so. So I wrote a play to talk about this,” Chong says.
Chong sees this belief as an aspect of herself that is childlike. While she is alert to the negative side of things, she is also an optimist who believes things can turn out well. “The reason you express things is because you think you can change the situation. It is a kind of idealism to think that speaking out and expressing yourself is useful.”
When she was younger, Chong was always thinking about the message and the conclusions she wanted to convey through a play. But as she got older, she realised there were more and more things she did not understand. So with success, she has gained humility. While she insists on speaking out through drama, she uses her voice to provoke discussion rather than broadcast solutions to the problems she raises.
Chong’s emphasis on justice and social systems in her work was inspired by the insights she gained while on a year-long study trip to the United States. She received a scholarship from the Asian Cultural Council in 2004 and travelled around the country from her base in New York.
As a foreigner, she took a step back to reflect on herself and look at her home city from a different perspective. At the same time, she saw how the people around her were passionately engaged in the US presidential election at the time. That changed her view on politics.
The shifts in Chong’s outlook and values in her plays can be seen as an increased concern about social issues. Chong’s earlier works deal with the darker reaches of the human psyche, reflecting her training as a psychology student at university. Murder in San José features secrets, jealousies and murder among a group of people who are close to one another. The French Kiss is about sexual harassment committed by a clergyman.
It may be a cliché, but Chong really does believe real life is more dramatic than plays. The French Kiss was inspired by a real story: a pastor kissed his secretary and was then charged with sexual harassment.