Blizzard is considering its options as fans around the globe react to its decision to ban Hearthstone esports player Ng Wai Chung, known professionally as Blitzchung, after he voiced support for the protests in Hong Kong during a live post-match interview. Two days after pulling down his gas mask and calling to “liberate Hong Kong” on the livestream, Chung’s winnings from the Grandmasters tournament were rescinded, he was banned from pro play for a year, and ties were cut with the two Taiwanese casters who happened to be on-camera at the time.
“It’s a violation of free speech,” Chung told Engadget. “I am pretty sure I won’t get that kind of punishment if my speech was pro-China-government.”
Blizzard is assessing the situation for now, a spokesperson told Engadget. The studio hasn’t otherwise spoken up about the issue since posting its decision to ban Chung on October 8th.
Blizzard’s reaction to Chung’s words is extreme. The company cites Hearthstone Grandmasters rules prohibiting “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.” However, many fans and critics attribute Blizzard’s response to its relationship with Chinese organizations, which are ostensibly opposed to the anti-China protests in Hong Kong. Particularly, Tencent Games, regularly one of the top 10 companies in the world by revenue, owns 5 percent of Activision Blizzard.
Tencent has a much larger stake in Fortnite studio Epic Games — 48.4 percent — though that company today said it wouldn’t ban or punish any player for expressing views on politics or human rights.
“The protests in Hong Kong have lasted for almost four months,” Chung said. “I love Hong Kong, this is my home where I live and grow up. I can’t just sit there doing nothing and watching our freedom being destroyed bit by bit.”