Blizzard have temporarily banned Hearthstone pro Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai for saying "liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!" during a post-match interview, expressing his support of the Hong Kong protests. This happened last Sunday, during the Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament. In addition to removal from the rest of the tournament and a one year ban, Blizzard will not pay out the prize money Blitzchung is owed for his participation so far. Blizzard have also stopped working with the two casters involved in the interview.
Nice one, Blizzard.
Blizzard have released a statement claiming that the interview violates their competition rules. Specifically:
"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 the 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 statement laughably concludes with "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."
Blitzchung's statement may well bring him into "public disrepute" for a portion of Chinese citizens, but it seems more notable that failing to punish Blitzchung would damage Blizzard's image in the eyes of the Chinese government. They've previously taken action against companies they find objectionable, including scrapping plans to show two US NBA basketball games after a team executive tweeted their own support of the protest. In other words, then, Blizzard (like most companies) do not stand by one's right to express individual thoughts and opinions when their expression may cause Blizzard financial harm.
Blitzchung issued a response to esports site Inven Global:
"As you know there are serious protests in my country now. 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. But I think it's my duty to say something about the issue."
Blizzard have apparently stopped working with the two casters due to the way they egged Blitzchung on. I don't understand Mandarin, but viewer Chua Zhihong claimed on Twitter that the casters said “say the eight words, then we’ll end the interview immediately.” Here's the interview in question.
— ? Inven Global ? (@InvenGlobal) October 6, 2019
Blizzard have removed the match and this footage from their video archives.
Their actions have, predictably, brought them into a degree of public disrepute.
Header photo: Ka Hei Mak, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license, cropped.