Blizzard Faces Backlash After Banning Professional Hearthstone Player.

It has been four months since the protests in Hong Kong have started after a bill that would extradite criminals in Hong Kong to be tried in mainland China was proposed. The citizens of Hong Kong have been holding demonstrations against the police and Chinese government. Hong Kong has some autonomy and more rights than the rest of the country and the protesters claimed that the bill would cause the city to lose autonomy and lead them under full control of China. Currently the bill has been withdrawn and Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, said it would be suspended. The protests have led to many violent clashes between the demonstrators and the police with the use of tear gas, batons, and pepper spray. Many people have been voicing their support for the protesters and the police. For more information on the Hong Kong protests, see Protests rage in Hong Kong over region’s Autonomy by David Land.

The protests have had an effect in many places around the world, and has caused controversy in many companies such as the NBA and recently on the 8th of October, 2019, video game company Blizzard Entertainment who established games such as Diablo, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft, banned professional player Ng Wai Chung for one year and cancelled his prize money of $10,000. Ng Wai Chung or “Blitzchung” was playing the Hearthstone Grandmasters Tournament for a video game Hearthstone and in a post-game interview he said “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” while wearing a gas mask like the ones being worn by Hong Kong demonstrators during a live streamed interview. Blizzard, who ran the tournament and founded Hearthstone, defended their decision by saying that this statement violated the rules of the competition involving “public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public or otherwise damages.” Blizzard also fired the two casters who were streaming the event.

 Supporters of Hong Kong protesters argue that Blizzard banned the player in order to appease China and keep their profits in there, pointing out that Blizzard’s parent company Activision Blizzard has connections with Tencent, a videogame company from China. Many on social media were outraged due to the ban of Blitzchung and started boycotting other Blizzard games. Mark Kern, who is a developer of Blizzard’s game, World of Warcraft, has been vocal on Twitter about his support for the protestors and disdain for Blizzard by stating, “This hurts. But until Blizzard reverses their decision on @blitzchungHS I am giving up playing Classic WoW, which I helped make and helped convince Blizzard to relaunch. There will be no Mark of Kern guild after all. Let me explain why I am #BoycottBlizzard.” Many on social media have been protesting by trying to make the character Mei from Blizzard’s Overwatch a pro Hong Kong democracy symbol. A group of Blizzard employees have also responded by staging a walkout the day after. “The action Blizzard took against the player was pretty appalling but not surprising,” an employee at Blizzard declared.“Blizzard makes a lot of money in China, but now the company is in this awkward position where we can’t abide by our values.”

After a week of outrage, Blizzard responded by shortening Blitzchung’s ban to six months from a year and gave Blitzchung the prize money. Blizzard Entertainment’s President J. Allen Brack has responded to the criticism that they took action to appease China by saying, “The specific views expressed by blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made. I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision.” The situation in Hong Kong is a slippery tightrope for many companies and Blizzard was the latest company in a position to deal with it.

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