Social media giant Twitter has launched a new emoji for the “Milk Tea Alliance” – a movement uniting Asian pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand and Myanmar.
The emoji, a white cup set against three different shades of a popular regional tea, marks a year since the #MilkTeaAlliance hashtag started.
The movement first arose last year following a Twitter war in which Chinese nationalists accused a young Thai actor and his girlfriend of supporting the on-going democracy movement in Hong Kong, as well as Taiwanese independence.
The hashtag is widely used among pro-democracy activists in Thailand who are calling for reform of the monarchy and protesters in Hong Kong who accuse Beijing of harming the territory’s democracy.
The alliance has united campaigners pushing for greater democracy in the region but Beijing says it is “full of biases” as it challenges Chinese dominance.
The movement has “consistently held anti-China positions, and is full of biases against China,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a press conference on Thursday, Bloomberg reported.
Although Twitter is banned in mainland China, its officials have used the platform to counter international criticism of Beijing’s policies.
Use of the hashtag spiked again this February after a military coup in Myanmar led to mass protests.
“We have seen more than 11 million tweets featuring the #MilkTeaAlliance hashtag over the past year,” Twitter said in a post on the platform.
The emoji will automatically show up when users post the #MilkTeaAlliance hashtag.
Twitter said: “During times of civil unrest or violent crackdowns, it is more important than ever for the public to have access to the #OpenInternet for real-time updates, credible information, and essential services.”
The announcement is a big moment for the movement, Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, a leading Thai activist, told the BBC.
“It’s very good that Twitter has recognised what we have fought for many years,” he said. “We have to fight not only our dictators but also with Chinese dominance.”
“The movement is happening not only online but offline. It’s made a big impact.”
Prominent activists from the region have celebrated the announcement online.
A post on Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong’s Twitter account used the emoji, writing: “Always in solidarity, no matter how hard the times.”
Previously, Twitter has created emojis for the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements. (Source: BBC)