It's a fact of geopolitical life: Hong Kong's formal name is the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (Hong Kong SAR).
However, when Twitter suddenly started recognizing this fact by renaming what it usually refers to as Hong Kong to Hong Kong SAR China as a trending location – some of its users were left surprised and looking for answers.
Journalist Alan Wong, noticed the change on Twitter.
Is it just me or has "Trending in Hong Kong" become "Trending in Hong Kong SAR China" on Twitter? pic.twitter.com/1JOboMPeMg
— Alan Wong (@alanwongw) September 9, 2019
Others then chimed in, demanding that Twitter answer and give an explanation.
In the comments to the two posts, Twitter users shared that they either did or didn't see the change, with some reporting that China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan – whose independence China doesn't recognize – have all been removed from the worldwide setting.
However, others noted that Hong Kong was not previously on the list at all – in which case it would appear that Twitter has now decided to introduce it under its full and official name.
One user said that Twitter localized to Polish showed both Hong Kong and another former colony, Macau, as China's special administrative regions, while another noticed that the Polish acronym – although correct – was also not short on comedy.
Twitter was apparently in such a hurry to change the place name "Hong Kong" to "Hong Kong SAR, China" that it didn't consult its localization team. The Polish version now literally reads "Hong Kong SHITS (China)" pic.twitter.com/sFeyfKMeTy
— Pinboard (@Pinboard) September 9, 2019
The changed appears to have come in sometime at the end of last month.
— Lupus Albus (@mytwilightbeat) August 30, 2019
Other commenters accused the social network of pandering to China – while unable to explain why that would be the case, considering that Twitter, along with a host of other western social media and news outlets, has been banned from China for a while now.
Well, perhaps in the hope of returning? In any case, Twitter abruptly becoming a stickler for proper naming conventions when it comes to countries and/or their regions, couldn't have come at a worse time. It's taking place amid months of protests in Hong Kong, originally caused by a now sidelined reason, an extradition agreement between the autonomous territory and mainland China.
During the ongoing Hong Kong crisis, Twitter earlier came under criticism for the way it allowed pro-China groups to use the platform to get their message across and ended up banning hundreds of accounts.
It will be interesting to see how Twitter reacts to this “naming” controversy – by reverting to the original name, removing Hong Kong from the trending settings, or by sticking to its guns.