Asian Netizens Against Chinese Internet Control · Global Voices Français

Milk Tea Alliance, image by Stand News. Used with permission.

[Sauf mention contraire, tous les liens de ce billet renvoient vers des pages web en français, ndlt.]

Chinese nationalists who have gone to great lengths to control speech on Twitter, a platform inaccessible to ordinary Chinese, had not imagined the consequences.

Learn about the ‘Milk Tea Alliance’, a coalition of Hong Kong, Taiwanese and Thai netizens working to end Chinese bullying on Twitter.

She was born in April 2020, following skirmishes between Chinese and Thai nationalist netizens.

Four photos of cityscapes that famous Thai actor Vachirawit Chiva-aree, or Bright (@bbrightvc), retweeted [en] set fire to the powder. Hong Kong was one of those cities. The tweet inadvertently mentioned that the photos had been taken in “four countries”.

Chinese nationalists then surged over the now-deleted tweet, which they said supported Hong Kong independence. Although Bright was quick to apologize, calling his tweet “indelicate”, nationalist trolls didn’t stop there and searched his social media.

They went up to one of her friends, Weeraya Sukaram, or Nnevvy (@nvy_weeraya) on Twitter. She shared a post wondering if COVID-19 came from a virology lab in Wuhan.

Nationalists also unearthed an Instagram post from 2018 in which Bright complimented her on her “Chinese” look, with Nnevvy replying that she preferred the “Taiwanese style”.

These Chinese netizens took Nnevvy’s comment as anti-Chinese and pro-Taiwanese independence, starting to troll her with the hashtag #Nnevvy.

She finally had to protect her Instagram accounts and Twitter.

Control speech online

Since 2014, the Chinese government has tightened its grip [en] on an already stifled information space.

Celebrities, such as pop stars, who are not from mainland China and find success in the Chinese market, must increasingly promote a positive image of China, or at least follow the official discourse of Beijing.

This is why Taiwanese and Hong Kong stars were recently forced to protest [en] their love of China.

Chinese internet nationalists have helped official censors in their work. They usually find celebrity statements that deviate from official discourse and report them to the authorities, calling for a boycott.

This way of controlling speech has now reached Twitter, although the platform is not accessible to Chinese Internet users without a proxy.

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey set Twitter ablaze last year when he wrote in support of Hong Kong protests against the extradition bill.

The tweet quickly sparked a crisis between China and the NBA (National Basketball Association) for which the Chinese audience is a vital market. Morey was forced to apologize [en].

Bright is an actor who became popular in China following the online release of the Thai romantic comedy 2gether.

Not content with the uproar they caused on Twitter, Chinese nationalists exposed Bright and Nnevvy’s politically incorrect speeches on Chinese platforms, such as Weibo [zh]the Chinese equivalent of Twitter with 300 million monthly users.

They called for a boycott of 2gether while mobilizing Chinese netizens to instill Thailand’s one-China principle on Instagram and Twitter.

Here is one of their typical tweets:

There is only one China 🇨🇳 There is only one China 🇨🇳 There is only one China 🇨🇳 There is only one China 🇨🇳 There is there is only one China 🇨🇳 There is only one China 🇨🇳 There is only one China 🇨🇳 There is only one China 🇨🇳

—Mable (@Mable66401914) April 11, 2020

The flashback

Opposition to this campaign began with individual tweets written by Thai netizens under the hashtag #nevvy. Topics ranged from COVID-19 to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Winnie the Pooh complex.

I really support the “one China” policy.

I mean, one China, not two or three.

That way we can have One Taiwan, One Hong Kong, One Tibet, etc. #nevvy

— ตำปูพริก7เม็ด (@TampooPrick7Med) April 14, 2020

Teach me to eat bats

— Shipper🚢 (@Tichaploy) April 11, 2020

my country may be poor, but yours stinks

— 🏳️‍🌈🇹🇼🇭🇰ทิฟชอบเฟยแมวเต็งหนึ่ง (@tiffanywilsonxo) April 11, 2020

Many Thai netizens also pointed to the lack of digital freedom in China:

Hi Xi Jinnie the Pooh
Your citizens are using VPNs to watch banned stuff in China and follow a Thai actor, plus they’re threatening his girlfriend’s privacy.

Please Chinese if you can leave the Chinese network. Go see what is happening in the “REAL WORLD”, not what your government wants you to see and believe. And respect the human right to speak, not just spout shit on people who don’t think like vs. #China #taiwannotchina #HKnotchina #nevvy

— เลงผอด (@Malangpod) April 11, 2020

While Chinese nationalists denounced poverty in Thailand and mocked the government, many Thais ironically encouraged them.

If you said that the govt and the Thai 👑 are also rotten
Yeah, I totally agree 🤣 you’re so right mdrrrrr 😂😂😂 #nevvy

Chinese nationalists ended up writing in code in the comments of such posts, for example using NMSL which means “your mother is dead”.

Thai netizen @sleepless posted a picture of a keyboard to poke fun at commentators hired by Chinese authorities, known as Wumao (the 50 cents):

As the scuffles escalated, netizens in Hong Kong and Taiwan rallied to support the Thais.

Around mid-April, this solidarity gave birth to the Milk Tea Alliance.

Victory for the #MilkTeaAlliance 🇹🇼🇹🇭🇭🇰 #Taiwan #Thailand #Hong Kong #Milktealogy

The coalition, formed almost a year ago, had begun as a response to speech control by Chinese nationalists. Today it offers a promising base for further fighting in the region.

A recent campaign by the Milk Tea Alliance was to support the online petition against the Chinese dam project on the Mekong, which would have caused severe droughts [en] in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. She quickly collected tens of thousands of signatures.

Drink a taro milk tea today. 😋#ชานมข้นกว่าเลือด

Dear members of the #MilkTeaAlliance,

Please sign the following petition to #StopTheMekongDam.

China’s Mekong Dam causes droughts because it restricts the flow of the river. We have to put an end to it.

Thank you ! 🙏👇🇹🇭🇹🇼🇭🇰

— Cha ✋☝️ (@chahongkong) April 17, 2020

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