Twitter has launched an emoji for “Milk Tea Alliance,” an online solidarity movement that brings together pro-democracy activists across Asia and is also often used during protests in Myanmar to against the military coup.
The term “Milk Tea Alliance” was coined on social media in 2020 following an online fight between supporters of a Thai actor and the Chinese nationalist internet users when the actor referred to Hong Kong as an independent country.
To defend the actor, his supporters came up with the #MilkTeaAlliance hashtag in reference to the love for sugary milk tea for people in Hong Kong, Thailand, and Taiwan. Pro-democracy protesters in Myanmar started using it as well during their protests after the February 2021 coup by the military.
On Thursday, Twitter’s Public Policy handle announced that they are launching “an emoji for the #MilkTeaAlliance, an online solidarity alliance first started in April 2020 as a Twitter meme which has grown into a global pro-democracy movement led by activists and concerned citizens” in the four countries and around the world.
“To celebrate the first anniversary of the #MilkTeaAlliance, we designed an emoji featuring 3 different types of milk tea colours from regions where the Alliance first formed online,” said Twitter.
Twitter said it has seen more than 11 million tweets featuring the #MilkTeaAlliance hashtag over the past year. It pointed out that conversations peaked when it first appeared in April 2020, and again in February 2021 when the coup took place in Myanmar.
The social media platform said that they recognise that the “#OpenInternet is increasingly under threat around the world.”
“We strongly believe that having access to the free and #OpenInternet is an essential right and remain a staunch defender and advocate of free expression and condemn #InternetShutdowns. No matter where in the world you are, please grab a good cup of Tea and join the conversation to show your love and support for the #MilkTeaAlliance,” it said.
In Myanmar, the military has shut down wireless internet services in several areas to suppress the protests. While in China, which rules Hong Kong and lays claim over Taiwan as its territory, Twitter is blocked.
This is not the first time that the social media platform has launched emojis for social movements as it had also launched emojis for the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements.
Prominent Thai activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, who is one of the alliance’s leading voices, told Reuters that the Twitter emoji showed global recognition and lent greater credibility to the youth movement.
“It’s important as it shows the young people fighting for democracy that the world is with them and they’re making an impact. It’s a sign that online activism can go much further,” he said.