Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) is facing extreme backlash on its decision to ban professional Hearthstone player Blitzchung after he voiced his support for the Hong Kong protestors over the weekend.
Hong Kong is currently in its 18th week of public protests over the local government’s decision to enact laws that would allow China to extradite citizens from Hong Kong for judicial reasons. Many people fear that this will undermine the former British colony’s autonomy under the “one country, two systems” deal. While the bill was withdrawn in September, clashes have become increasingly violent, with police resorting to using tear gas.
Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung, who is from Hong Kong, voiced his support for the protest movement by yelling, “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age!” during a postgame interview. In response, Blizzard released a statement saying Chung had violated the 2019 Hearthstone Grandmasters Official Competition rules. As a result, Chung was removed from the Grandmasters and given a 12-month ban from participating in Hearthstone esports. Blizzard also rescinded the $10,000 USD in prize money Chung was set to receive. He has since told IGN that he respects Blizzard’s decision but is not regretful of what he said.
Dozens of Blizzard employees walked out of the company’s California offices on Tuesday in protest of the ban, with many more fans taking to social media to blast what they see as an infringement of Blitzchung’s freedom of speech. As a result, the hashtag #BoycottBlizzard has gained considerable traction on Twitter. The controversy has even reached government level, with Senator Ron Wyden saying, “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.”
Blizzard’s annual gaming convention, Blizzcon, takes place in Anaheim in just over three weeks.
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