Blizzard pulls Blitzchung from Hearthstone tournament over support for Hong Kong protests

Blizzard pulls Blitzchung from Hearthstone tournament over support for Hong Kong protests

A professional Hearthstone player from Hong Kong, Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai, was suspended from the Grandmasters tournament by Blizzard for sharing a statement of support for people now engaged in protests against the local police and government in Hong Kong. It's the latest example of how a popular sport has been dragged into tensions over the months-long political unrest.

"Grandmasters is the highest tier of Hearthstone Esports and we take tournament rule violations very seriously", Blizzard said in the announcement. The company has also banned him from all Hearthstone esports events for one year.

Understandably, a good portion of the /r/Hearthstone subreddit (and Reddit in general) are upset at Blizzard's decision; discussion of the Hearthstone Hong Kong controversy has taken up the #1 and #2 spots on /r/all, a metareddit that tracks the most popular posts on the site.

Blitzchung is from Hong Kong where protesters routinely hide their faces and conceal their identities for fear of reprisal from the Chinese communists on the mainland.

Inven Global, a website that covers esports and gaming news, reports that Blitzchung shouted the phrase in Chinese. Critics have already accused Blizzard of giving in to pressure from China - it might not want to risk losing access to a huge market by appearing to endorse the Hong Kong protests.

The collectible card game's developers, Blizzard, determined the player violated a competition rule.

"As you know there are serious protests in my country now". He added, "My call on stream was just another form of participation of the protest that I wish to grab more attention..."

Grandmasters awards as much as $200,000 to the first-place finisher.

"I know what my action on stream means", the statement concluded. It could cause me a lot of trouble, even my personal safety in real life.

I've not seen any pros participating in the boycott at the moment, though CCG pro Brian Kibler tweeted that he's being thinking about the situation and will have more to say soon.

The suspension also puts Blizzard in line with the Chinese government, which has censored and condemned the protests in Hong Kong. Luxury brands including Versace, Coach and Givenchy have all fallen afoul of Beijing's demands to refer to both Hong Kong and Taiwan as parts of its territory and not suggest they are independent.

Blizzard said they "stand by one's right to express individual thoughts and opinions", but they remained firm on the fact that players and other participants "must abide by the official competition rules".

The Chinese government reacted with fury.

Tech giant Tencent and Chinese state television said they wouldn't broadcast Rockets games. 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".

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