Blizzard has issued a year-long ban to a Hearthstone player who expressed support for the Hong Kong protestors during a competition live stream. The US-based game developer and publisher is also withholding any prize money he would have earned from competing in the tournament.
The incident occurred on Sunday, when Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung was being interviewed after a Grandmasters match. At the end of the interview,InvenGlobalreportsthat Blitzchung pulled down his Hong Kong protester-style mask to yell, “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age!” The stream then quickly cuts to a commercial break.
Seemingly worried at the potential repercussions for its Chinese business interests,Blizzard respondedto the incident by banning Blitzchung from competing in Hearthstone tournaments for one year, effective from October 5th. He will also no longer be able to take part in the Grandmasters tournament, and will lose any prize money earned during Grandmasters Season 2. In its statement, Blizzard cited a competition rule which states that players aren’t allowed to do anything that “brings [them] into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages [Blizzard’s] image.”
“While we stand by one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions, players and other participants that elect to participate in our esports competitions must abide by the official competition rules,” Blizzard said in its statement.
Blizzard is the latest US organization to have attempted to limit support of the Hong Kong protests, which recently entered their sixth month. Earlier this week, Houston Rockets general managed Daryl Moreydeleted and issued an apology over a tweetthat supported the protesters. The NBA later issued a statement describing the tweet, which read “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” as “regrettable.” However, NBA Commissioner Adam Silverlater appeared to backtrack from this position, saying in a statement that he did not want to put the NBA in a position where it has to regulate what its owners, players, or employees say about global issues.
Prior to the ban being issued,Blitzchung issued a statement toInvenGlobalto explain his actions. “As you know there are serious protests in my country now,” he explained, “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.”
“But I think it’s my duty to say something about the issue,” he added.
As well as punishing Blitzchung, Blizzard says it has also terminated its contract with the two casters who were interviewing the competitor. Although they appeared to hide their faces as he expressed his support,one Twitter user claimedthat the two had egged Blitzchung on, encouraging him to “Say the eight words, then we’ll end the interview immediately.”