How Milk Tea Became an Anti-China Symbol

How Milk Tea Became an Anti-China Symbol

As he was exiting a Hong Kong courtroom in August, charged with rioting during the city’s protests, Gregory Wong turned to the assembled reporters and photographers and held his right hand in the air, flashing a three-finger salute.

Wong, the star of a string of popular Cantonese TV shows and movies whose dating exploits serve as constant tabloid fodder, is accused of breaking into Hong Kong’s Legislative Council building last year, when thousands of demonstrators smashed through the building’s glass facade and stormed the hallways. His outspoken support of the pro-democracy movement is rare among celebrities in Hong Kong, who run the risk of being blacklisted from the lucrative mainland market for sharing political beliefs that run counter to Beijing’s. As a result, he has become a favorite of activists in the city, and is a prominent face of the sprawling protest movement.

The salute he made is not a popular sign of resistance among Hong Kong demonstrators, however, but of those in Thailand, who co-opted it from the Hunger Games movie series. There, tens of thousands of people, many of them students and youths, have repeatedly taken to the streets in recent months, demanding that the military remove itself from politics and, more daringly, that the country’s largely untouchable monarchy undergo reform. The gesture, Wong told me, was to show people facing injustice anywhere that “we are all in sync with each other; we are all [speaking] out for each other.”