China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
The rise of China is challenged by periphery resistance from Hong Kong and Taiwan against Beijing’s influence. Emotional appeals play a crucial role among activists in the emergence of a vocal movement for independence in both entities. This paper investigates how leaders utilise emotions to motivate their followers for a de-facto impossible political cause. In more concrete terms it examines how leaders manage the emotions of their followers to allow them to cope with despair and present independence as a new reality. I gained unprecedented access to the leadership of the Hong Kong independence movement. Over 80 in-depth interviews constitute a database which allows for the first time to trace how political leaders employ emotions to shape identities and public emotions. The paper places a special emphasis to the expression of emotions by leaders through social media to achieve direct contact with their supporters. This methodological approach goes beyond the dominant post-structuralist method which is restricted to interpretations of the relationship between leaders and emotions. The finding suggests the existence of “compound emotion”, which is an affective status entailing more than one emotion. In this case, I identify the despair-hope compound. Leaders channel the public emotion of despair through projecting the issue of independence as source of hope. The coping mechanism is powerful as it turns the passive emotion of despair to an active state of hope which makes resistance sustainable.