In the midst of the Hong Kong protests Blizzard Entertainment, one of the world’s foremost video game companies, has found itself involved in the controversy.
Dissent towards Blizzard arose after the company banned a Hearthstone esports player named Ng Wai Chung, or Blitzchung online, for a year after showing support for Hong Kong protestors.
Chung is a professional esports player. He has played in multiple Hearthstone tournaments and has been ranked seventh in the Hearthstone Grandmasters.
According to Time magazine, Chung was featured on the official Taiwan Hearthstone stream after the Grandmaster’s second season of 2019 ended. Then abruptly in the middle of the interview Chung puts on a ski and gas mask and in Chinese stated, “liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age.”
Blizzard entertainment responded promptly and on their Hearthstone website released a statement explaining Chung’s actions violated their 2019 Hearthmasters official competition rules section 6.1 (o).
This section states, “engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms.”
The entertainment company followed through. They banned Chung for a full year and stripped him of all of his prize money.
Blizzard Entertainment describes itself as a premier developer and publisher of entertainment software.
They are an American company based out of Southern California and have been established since 1994.
They created popular MMO (massive multiplayer online) game World of Warcraft, in addition to esports mega hits Overwatch and Hearthstone.
Knowing this, it’s easy to wonder why this American gaming company is involved with China at all.
Many American businesses have sought out doing business with China. The countries esports community is vast and rapidly growing. Therefore, it makes sense for Blizzard to gravitate towards doing business there.
Blizzard has strong partnerships and ties with China. According to Quartz, 12% of Blizzard’s revenue is derived from the Asia Pacific market.
Tencent, a successful Chinese gaming company, has a 5% stake in Blizzard’s company. In addition, NetEase, a Chinese internet company, also has an 11-year and recently extended partnership with Blizzard.
This American business is stuck between its interest in freedom of speech and it’s loyalty to China. However, it seems they’ve already decided as Chung wasn’t the only one banned for showing support for the Hong Kong protesters.
According to CNN, three American university esports players were also suspended for six months after holding up a “free Hong Kong, boycott Blizz” sign during a live-streamed championship game. Blizzard told CNN Business the decision was made because the students “knowingly broke the rules.”
One of the students, Casey Chambers, voiced his reasoning in a public statement. He explained that he and his friends we’re previously supportive of the Hong Kong protests:
“We just happened to have an amazing opportunity to protest an American company bowing down to China, within the context of the Hong Kong protests.”
The gamer further explained their goal wasn’t to get banned, but it was “good to see equal treatment” between US esports players and those in Hong Kong.
According to BBC, the Hong Kong protests began in June after a bill was introduced that would allow for criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China under certain circumstances. While city leader Carrie Lam agreed to suspend the extradition bill, protests continued and demands for full democracy surfaced.
Unfortunately, these demands have not been met peacefully as both protesters and officers continue to attack and use violence against each other.
An example of said violence is taken from a Guardian article published this past Sunday. A peaceful protest turned violent as protesters threw petrol bombs at police and even vandalized shops in the area.
Police reacted with tear gas, rubber bullets, and baton charges. In addition, the police later used a water cannon on protesters. This cannon had water dyed blue and contained a painful pepper solution.
With violent protests, gaming controversies, and American business involvement the Hong Kong protests are a wildfire that likely won’t be extinguished anytime soon.
This Blizzard controversy is an example of skewed morals and will acts like this will continue unless consumers take action.
Header photo by AP.