Blizzard Deals With Public Backlash After Suspending Player For Public Support Of Hong Kong Protests

Blizzard Deals With Public Backlash After Suspending Player For Public Support Of Hong Kong Protests

Blizzard is facing controversy after giving a year-long suspension to a Hearthstone Grandmasters player for supporting Hong Kong protests. The player appeared in a post-competition live stream wearing a gas mask and advocating on behalf of protesters in the city.

Many in the public believe Blizzard suspended the player, Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai, in an effort to maintain the popularity of its product within mainland China. On the mainland, the on-going protests in Hong Kong are looked upon as generally unfavorable. During the backlash, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida) spoke out against the suspension. And even Blizzard employees anonymously reacted to the news in not-so-subtle ways. Blizzard, however, maintains that Blitzchung violated competition rules.

In a public statement, the gaming company said competitive players could not engage in activity that brings the player into “public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages [the] Blizzard image.” But, according to a former Blizzard employee named Kevin Hovdestad, several plaques displaying the company’s values were covered up at Blizzard HQ in Irvine, California. Those plaques had the words “Think globally” and “Every voice matters” inscribed on them.

On Twitter, Senator Rubio announced that the decision highlighted how China was using its market as a way to “crush free speech globally.” Senator Wyden also showed his concern when he tweeted, “Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party. No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck.”

During the incident, Blitzchung, while wearing a gas mask, said, “Liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our age!” The gas mask was similar to the ones protesters are currently wearing to help resist the effects of tear gas being shot at them from the Hong Kong Police Force. Hong Kong has also passed recent legislation making it illegal for protesters to use masks of any kind to obscure their faces within the city. Masks have long been used by protesters to help conceal their identity.

The protests began during the summer in response to the introduction of an extradition bill that would allow the transfer of criminals and suspected criminals from Hong Kong to China. The problem with the law, for many protesters, is that while Hong Kong is part of the Chinese nation, the two regions have abided by what is called “One Country, Two Systems.” Hong Kong is supposed to maintain a degree of autonomy. But protesters feel allowing extradition would dramatically diminish that autonomy.

In a recent statement, Blizzard has announced that they “stand by one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions.” Nonetheless, they maintain their stance on the issue. According to their statement, all competition participants “must abide by the official competition rules.”