BANGKOK (Reuters) – Social media giant Twitter on Thursday launched an emoji for the Milk Tea Alliance, a global online democratic movement that has united anti-Beijing campaigns in Hong Kong and Taiwan with protesters in Thailand, Myanmar and beyond.
Activists welcomed the announcement of the emoji ̵
The Milk Tea Alliance stems from a Twitter war that flared up after Chinese nationalists accused a young Thai actor and his girlfriend of supporting democracy in Hong Kong and Taiwan’s independence.
It is named after a common passion for sweet tea drinks the three places.
The use of hashtag peaked again in February after the military coup in Myanmar, where protesters using hashtag gathered regional support.
“We’ve seen more than 11 million tweets with the #MilkTeaAlliance hashtag in the last year,” Twitter said in a statement pushing the hashtag to among the most popular in Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan on Thursday.
Previously, Twitter launched emojis for the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements.
The Twitter emoji showed global recognition and gave the youth movement greater credibility, said prominent Thai activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, one of the alliance’s leading voices.
“It is important as it shows the young people who are fighting for democracy that the world is with them and they have influence,” Netiwit told Reuters. “It’s a sign that online activism can go much further.”
Twitter is blocked in China, and its apparent adherence to a movement with a strong resistance against Beijing was unlikely to harm its business, said James Buchanan, an associate professor at Bangkok’s Mahidol University International College.
“Twitter has a lot to gain by appealing to young people in the Asian markets that are open to them,” he said.
Reporting of Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing Mattthew Tostevin and Ed Davies