11 July 2024

Twitter has launched an emoji to highlight the “#MilkTeaAlliance” online protest movement that has forged links between pro-democracy activists across Asia.

The alliance — named for the shared love of sugary tea drinks across Hong Kong, Thailand and Taiwan — emerged last year in an expression of cross-border solidarity and shared fear of authoritarian China.

The campaign gained steam at a time when Hong Kong was emerging from months of pro-democracy protests and urban youth in Bangkok and other Thai cities were beginning their own street confrontations with authorities, demanding reform to the military-drafted constitution and other rights.

It has since spread to Myanmar — where tea with condensed milk is a staple breakfast accompaniment — after a coup ousted the country’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February, sparking a mass uprising.

Twitter said on it’s microblog that to celebrate the first anniversary of the #MilkTeaAlliance, they had designed an emoji featuring 3 different types of milk tea colours from regions where the Alliance first formed online.

The image appears in any tweet featuring the hashtag in English, Thai, Korean, and several other Asian languages.

The term has been used on Twitter more than 11 million times since last April, the platform said, with usage again spiking after the Myanmar coup.

The military regime there has imposed overnight internet shutdowns and blanket mobile data restrictions to try and bring weeks of unrest to heel.

It has also directed local telecom service providers to block access to social media sites, which protesters have skirted by using virtual private networks and foreign SIM cards.

Twitter also said that they 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”.