The controversy over China’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong has invaded the esports arena.
Activision Blizzard’s Blizzard Entertainment unit has banned “Hearthstone” player Blitzchung from competing for one year — and the company rescinded prize money he won in the recent Asia-Pacific Grandmasters tournament for the game — after the gamer issued a pro-Hong Kong statement in a post-match interview Sunday.
Blizzard said in a statement Tuesday that Blitzchung has been removed from the Grandmasters tournament and will receive no prize money for season 2. He also is banned from participating in “Hearthstone” esports for 12 months, until Oct. 5, 2020.
The action comes after Blitzchung (real name: Ng Wai Chung) appeared in an interview on the official “Hearthstone” Taiwan stream. He pulled off his Hong Kong-protester-style mask and said, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!”, according to esports news site InvenGlobal.
Ng said Blizzard’s action will cost him $10,000 in prize money that he already won in the Grandmasters tournament, according to Bloomberg.
Blizzard cited its tournament rule that prohibits players from “Engaging in 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 image.”
“While we stand by one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions, players and other participants that elect to participate in our esports competitions must abide by the official competition rules,” Blizzard said in a statement.
Blizzard is the most recent U.S. company to encounter a political controversy involving China and Hong Kong. China’s state media and Tencent have suspended NBA broadcasts after Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey last week tweeted an image supporting the Hong Kong protesters. Morey has apologized for the tweet, which the NBA called “regrettable.”
Meanwhile, “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone on Monday issued a satiric statement in the wake of reports that China has banned a recent episode critical of the government from online and social media services, saying, “Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts. We too love money more than freedom and democracy. Xi doesn’t look just like Winnie the Pooh at all.”