“So Many Mothers, So Little Love”: Discourse of Motherly Love and Parental Governance in 2019 Hong Kong Protests

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
Ting Guo Assistant Professor, Department of Language Studies, University of Toronto Scarborough Ontario Canada

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This paper focuses on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s discourse of motherly love during the 2019 mass protests, examining it in relation to the politicization of Confucianism taking place in China today. This politicization results from a new cult of personality centered on President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan which reinforces patriarchal authoritarianism and familial nationalism through an explicit emphasis on Confucianism and traditional values. Through this process, authoritarian power has been reconfigured and legitimized as Confucian duty, with the result that political leaders are made to appear firm but benevolent parents while the protestors are cast in the role of children requiring discipline. Lam’s discourse of motherly love is further complicated by the fact that she is the first woman to assume such a leadership role in modern Chinese history, which further illuminates Hong Kong’s struggle against both patriarchal authoritarianism and the gendered legacy of coloniality.

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