E-sports player suspended for supporting Hong Kong protests

Popular American video game developer Blizzard Entertainment suspended Hong Kong-based “Hearthstone” player Ng Wai Chung for a year after he expressed support for the Hong Kong protests during a tournament.

The 21-year-old university student donned goggles and a gas mask, attire reminiscent of gear worn by the Hong Kong activists, and shouted “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times!” during a mid-tournament interview. In response, Blizzard claimed that Chung broke a competition guideline stating that players cannot “[Engage] in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion… offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages [Blizzard’s image]” and suspended Chung for a year. Additionally, Chung also told several media outlets that his tournament prize winnings of $10,000 was rescinded. Blizzard has since reduced his suspension by six months and returned the prize money after facing bipartisan condemnation from several members of Congress.

Chung, who had been playing “Hearthstone” professionally for four years, told media outlets that he had “no regrets.”

Protests in Hong Kong began last June after a bill for an extradition agreement between Hong Kong and mainland China was proposed. Opponents claimed this would expose Hong Kong citizens to unfair Chinese courts, allow China to target journalists and activists and potentially strengthen Chinese control over Hong Kong.

Several American companies, including Blizzard, have been accused of caving to Chinese censorship standards in order to maintain access to China’s large market of consumers. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, in response to Blizzard’s choice to suspend Chung, tweeted “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 President, however, claims that the company’s financial relationship had nothing to do with the decision to suspend Chung. “The specific views expressed by [Chung] were NOT a factor in the decision we made. I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision. We have these rules to keep the focus on the game and on the tournament to the benefit of a global audience,” said a statement released on Blizzard’s official news blog.