Published in Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
Online Publication Date: 15 Nov 2021
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 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.