And in Taipei, dozens of people gathered to back the Thai protests and give weight to a nascent community of cross-border youth movements pushing for democracy at home and uneasy with China’s growing regional power. “This is the first physical expression of the Milk Tea Alliance,” said Thai student Akrawat Siripattanachok, 27, who helped organise the show of solidarity in Taipei joined by Hong Kong activists, a Chinese dissident and Taiwan students. “We don’t want to just talk about it online.
Some Thai students have shown support for Hong Kong activists as Beijing has tightened its grip and for the Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the face of increased Chinese rhetoric over what China views as a breakaway province. “The situation in Thailand isn’t so different from Hong Kong or Taiwan, which are under pressure from the authoritarian government of China,” said Rathasat Plenwong, 24, a student protester with a Milk Tea Alliance sign.
While the groups’ bonds may not concern China now, they were a clear sign of the challenge facing its influence in the region, Wasana Wongsurawat, a Chinese history professor at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, told Reuters. “It’s amazing that the Hong Kong and Taiwan bond expanded into the Milk Tea Alliance with Thailand, a sovereign country that doesn’t even list Chinese as a national language,” she said.
Wong tweeted support for the Thai protesters, while users on LIHKG, a social media forum used by Hong Kong demonstrators, also called on people to highlight the call of the Thai protesters for greater democracy and the departure of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader. “The show of solidarity between different pro-democracy groups in Asia reflects a greater intensity and camaraderie,” Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, 22, one of the Thai protest leaders, told Reuters.
The light-hearted name represents a shared passion for sweet tea drinks in Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan. “The innovative idea of Milk Tea Alliance will enhance more students to push forward global solidarity which might confront hardline crackdown,” prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong told Reuters.