Twitter launches 'Milk Tea Alliance' emoji as movement grows

HONG KONG: Twitter has launched an emoji to spotlight the “#MilkTeaAlliance” online protest movement that has forged links between activists across Asia, the social media giant said on Thursday (Apr 8).

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 China.



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

The hashtag began in April last year as a backlash to Chinese nationalist attacks on a Thai celebrity for a perceived slight to China.

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.

Use of the term Milk Tea Alliance has spiked again on Twitter following the Myanmar coup. (Photo: AFP/Jack Taylor)

“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,” Twitter said on Wednesday.



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

A post on Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong’s Twitter account said: “Always in solidarity, no matter how hard the times,” using the English and Chinese versions of the hashtag. Wong is now in jail and his account is managed by friends, according to the Twitter profile.

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.

READ: Commentary – The Milk Tea Alliance sweeping through Thailand is a force to be reckoned with
READ: Commentary – Social media worsens growing anti-China sentiments in Southeast Asia

“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,” Twitter said in its announcement of the new emoji.

The #MilkTeaAlliance emoji follows similar recognition by Twitter in recent years of the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements. (Photo: AFP/Glenn Chapman)

Thursday’s move follows similar recognition by Twitter in recent years of the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter social movements, after the respective global campaigns against sexual abuse and in support of racial justice.