Blizzard’s Official Account On Chinese Social Media Site Weibo Apparently Contradicts Earlier Statements

Blizzard’s Official Account On Chinese Social Media Site Weibo Apparently Contradicts Earlier Statements
Credit: Blizzard

Blizzard continues to find itself in more and more trouble regarding its suspension of a Hearthstone player for supporting on-going Hong Kong protests this month. In its English statement, the gaming company claimed the player had been suspended for merely breaking competition rules. But a recent post on Chinese social media suggested otherwise.

On the Twitter-like Chinese social media site Weibo, the official Blizzard account came out against the player’s comments. The account is run by Blizzard’s Chinese publisher, Netease. The player, Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai, wore a gas mask during a post-competition stream while shouting “Liberate Hong Kong!” Blitzchung was suspended for one year shortly afterward. The Netease/Blizzard account claimed they would safeguard their country’s “national dignity” in the post. The news comes in the wake of a swell of public outrage over the suspension.

The original post made in Chinese was first translated and reported on by IGN. The post claimed that Blizzard wanted to express their strong “resentment and condemnation of the events that occurred in the Hearthstone Asia Pacific competition last weekend.” The rest of the post detailed the actions taken against Blitzchung and mentioned the breaking of competition rules.

All of this seemed in line with official statements given by Blizzard in English. It was the last line, however, that differed greatly in tone and content. According to the IGN translation, the Blizzard account run by Netease said, “Also, we will protect [or safeguard] our national dignity [or honor].” In Blizzard’s English statement regarding the incident, the company said competition participants could not do anything that might bring the participant into “public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages [the] Blizzard image.”

Backlash against the decision came swiftly and decisively. Even from the company’s own employees. According to one source, several employees rebelled against this decision by covering several plaques displaying company values at the company’s headquarters in Irvine. The specific values covered had the inscriptions “Think globally” and “Every voice matters” on them.

Several US Senators also joined in on the conversation. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) tweeted that he believed the decision epitomized how China was already wielding its market in an effort to “crush free speech globally.” Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the aisle, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) 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.”

Hong Kong Protests began earlier this summer after Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, introduced an extradition bill between the city and mainland China. The two regions, which belong to the same country, have followed a “One Country, Two Systems” policy for several decades. In practice, the city of Hong Kong is required by treaty to be autonomous. Protesters believe the extradition bill is a violation of that autonomy.

Blizzard has said they “stand by one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions.” But, if they do, they certainly aren’t making things easier on themselves by condemning that expression on Weibo.