Transgressing taboos : the relational dynamics of claim radicalization in Hong Kong and Thailand

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Journal / PublicationSocial Movement Studies
Online published25 Oct 2022
Publication statusOnline published - 25 Oct 2022


Claims made during mass protests in Hong Kong in 2019 and Thailand in 2020 became increasingly transgressive. Localist demands and calls for the reform of the monarchy, respectively, violated conventional political norms in these two hybrid regimes. This paper examines the dynamics of opposition discursive radicalization during ongoing autocratization. Observational data and protest event analysis are employed to assess the scaling up of claims-making and its relationship to protest size and group solidarity. The paper argues that radicalization can best be understood relationally, between a hybrid regime, on the one hand, and moderates and radicals in the opposition, on the other. It identifies the following three points of convergence that lead to similar protest trajectories in both cases: the marginalization of moderates along with their gatekeeping role of transgressive discourses; the creation of digitally enabled protest networks that facilitated mass mobilization and claims diffusion; and the intensification of protest policing that provoked a departure from reformist to revolutionary claims. The argument offered here shows similarities to but also nuanced differences from the repression literature and casts doubt on the assumptions about the demobilizing impact of autocratization.

Research Area(s)

  • autocratization, discursive radicalization, Hong Kong protests, relational dynamics, repression, Social movements, Thailand protests