Blizzard bans Hearthstone player for Hong Kong protests – Blizzard staff walk out
In one of the more unusual esports controversies, Blizzard has banned a gamer from a Hearthstone tournament for visibly supporting the ongoing Hong Kong protests. Chung ‘Blitzchung’ Ng Wai was barred from the remainder of the Grand Masters competition for shouting protest slogans and wearing one of the masks banned by the Chinese government.
Things went one step further when it was revealed that several Activision Blizzard employees walked out of the company’s main offices in Irvine, California. One employee went on record as saying ‘Blizzard makes a lot of money in China, but now the company is in this awkward position where we can’t abide by our values.’
Apart from the financial motives, it’s unclear as to why Blizzard Entertainment would side with China in this dispute, the severity of their actions are unquestionable. Not only did Blitzchung get instantly kicked out of the Grand Masters contest, but he also had his previous prize winnings of $10,000 canceled, and won’t be able to play professional competitive Hearthstone for 12 months.
Why did Blizzard ban Blitzchung?
Blizzard Entertainment released Hearthstone in 2014 and they run the Grand Masters tournament. In a statement, they said that Blitzchung had acted in a way that brings Blizzard’s image into ‘public disrepute’.
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Blitzchung was filmed in a Hearthstone Grand Masters post-match interview where he shouted ‘Liberate Hong King, revolution of our age!’ The 21-year old Hong Kong gamer was also wearing eye goggles and a gas mask as he shouted his protest message. Masks have been used by many Hong Kong protestors, but the Chinese authorities have attempted to ban such headgear. As a result, the interview was cut off the live stream halfway through, and video is no longer online.
It’s worth noting that the Chinese holding company Tencent has a small stake in the company that owns Blizzard Entertainment and this may the reason as to why Blitzchung was so harshly dealt with.
The gamer is believed to be under the impression that Blizzard Entertainment have folded under pressure of the Chinese authorities to act strictly to any message seen as supporting the Hong Kong protests.
The Hong Kong protests have been underway since March 2019. They have seen huge numbers of people protesting in the streets as a result of the Chinese government’s plans to introduce the controversial Fugitive Offenders amendment bill.
Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t live in #China must either self censor or face dismissal & suspensions. China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally. Implications of this will be felt long after everyone in U.S. politics today is gone. https://t.co/Cx3tkWc7r6
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 8, 2019
Where will Blitzchung and Blizzard go from here?
Chung ‘Blitzchung’ Ng Kai is one of the top gamers in the Asia-Pacific region of the Hearthstone GrandMasters tournament. There are now big questions about how he will be able to compete in the game professionally after his banning. The 21-year old had spent four years becoming a professional Hearthstone player, but now it seems that his efforts may have been in vain.
Following the announcement that he had been banned, Blitzchung said that he had no regrets of his actions. He also said that he often couldn’t focus on the competition due to the scale of the protests that overlapped with the competition time.
While the move to ban Blitzchung is unlikely to affect many fans of esports betting, it does raise a few questions about the global intentions of Blizzard Entertainment. The Blizzard employees’ protests numbered about thirty people who assembled near the famous Orc warrior statue and lasted all afternoon. There were also a number of Blizzard employees who held umbrellas – a popular motif for many of the Hong Kong protesters.
The gaming company didn’t make any comment about their employee’s protests. But by aligning themselves too closely with the Chinese government, the games company risks further alienating an even larger community of gamers.