he protests in Hong Kong continue to emanate outward, now rocking the realm of online gaming with Blizzard becoming the latest company to face accusations of kowtowing to China rather than standing up for free speech.
While participating in a tournament for the popular online turn-based card game Hearthstone, Hong Kong player Chung Ng Wai, better known as Blitzchung, appeared in a post-match interview on the game’s official Taiwanese stream.
Blitzchung wore a gas mask which he lifted up before shouting out: “Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our time!”
— 🎃 Inven Global 🎃 (@InvenGlobal) October 6, 2019
Blizzard soon evicted Blitzchung from the tournament, forced him to forfeit his winnings, and banned him from pro competition for one year. Though they did not respond to the outburst and even lowered their heads out of view, the two stream hosts will not be working with Blizzard again, said the company.
The move quickly turned into one of the hottest topics on social media, particularly on Reddit where the Blizzard subreddit has gone quiet in the wake of the backlash while the Hearthstone subreddit is filled with players announcing that they will be quitting the game and deactivating their Blizzard accounts.
Critics have accused Blizzard of bowing to Chinese interests. Tech giant Tencent holds a 4.9 percent stake in the American company and has helped Blizzard’s games gain access to the vast market of Chinese gamers.
Someone even came up with a new Hearthstone card.
Blizzard itself has made no comment on Chinese interference, instead accusing Blitzchung of having violated a tournament rule which prohibits players from engaging in any act which “brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard’s image.”
Blitzchung himself has stood by his act of protest, calling it his “duty,” and appears to have known that there would be serious repercussions.
“As you know, there are serious protests in my country now,” he told esports outlet Inven Global. “My call on stream was just another form of participation of the protest that I wish to grab more attention. I put so much effort in that social movement in the past few months that I sometimes couldn’t focus on preparing my Grandmaster match.”
“I know what my action on stream means. It could cause me lot of trouble, even my personal safety in real life.”
In a later livestream, Blitzchung added: “I lost only four years of my life playing Hearthstone, but if Hong Kong loses, it will be forever.”
This all comes, of course, as the NBA is facing a similar sort of crisis over one GM’s tweet of support for the Hong Kong protests and as South Park has been banned for ridiculing US companies for self-censoring to be allowed to play ball in China.