BANGKOK (Reuters) – Social media giant Twitter launched an emoji Thursday for the Milk Tea Alliance, a global online pro-democracy movement that has united anti-Beijing campaigners in Hong Kong and Taiwan with protesters in Thailand, Myanmar and beyond.
Activists welcomed the announcement of the emoji – a white cup against a background of three colors representing different shades of milk tea in Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan – for the movement’s first anniversary.
The Milk Tea Alliance was born out of a Twitter war that flared up after Chinese nationalists accused a young Thai actor and his girlfriend of supporting democracy in Hong Kong and Taiwanese independence.
It is named after a shared passion for sweet tea drinks in the three places.
Use of the hashtag peaked again in February after the military coup in Myanmar, where protesters using the hashtag gathered regional support.
“We’ve seen more than 11 million Tweets with the hashtag #MilkTeaAlliance in the last year,” Twitter said in an announcement that brought the hashtag to the top trending in Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan on Thursday.
Previously, Twitter launched #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movement emojis.
The Twitter emoji showed global recognition and gave the youth movement more credibility, said prominent Thai activist Netiwine Chotiphatphaisal, one of the alliance’s leading voices.
“It’s important because it shows the young people who are fighting for democracy that the world is with them and that they are making an impact,” Netzame told Reuters. “It’s a sign that online activism can go much further.”
Twitter is being blocked in China and the apparent endorsement of a move with strong opposition to Beijing would likely not hurt her business, said James Buchanan, a lecturer at Mahidol University International College in Bangkok.
“Twitter has a lot to gain by appealing to young people in the Asian markets that are open to them,” he said.
Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Adaptation by Mattthew Tostevin and Ed Davies