News Article

Blizzard gamer punished for Hong Kong protest support

A subsidiary of Activision Blizzard Inc. has penalised a gamer for expressing support for the protest movement in Hong Kong, the latest example of a U.S. corporation trying to rein in remarks that could displease the Communist Party of China.

Blizzard Entertainment said Ng Wai Chung, also known as Blitzchung, was barred from a year-long pro Hearthstone esports tournament. Blizzard has also withheld cash that he had won in the company’s top-tier Grandmasters competition, which Ng said cost him $10,000 in prize earnings in a Twitter message.

The move was sparked when Ng — clad in a gas mask and goggles in violation of the ban on face masks by the authorities— used a slogan during a post-match interview in support of pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong.

“We take the necessary steps to prevent similar events from happening in the future after an investigation,” Blizzard said in a statement.

Hearthstone’s official account reposted Blizzard’s message in Chinese on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo. “As always, we must resolutely defend the integrity of the nation,” he said.

Activision Blizzard joins other international companies in an uproar over freedom of speech related to China. Luxury brands such as Versace, Coach and Givenchy have all fallen foul of the demands of Beijing to refer to both Hong Kong and Taiwan as parts of their territories and not to say that they are independent nations.

Even Huawei Technologies Co., a national celebrity and computer giant, was under attack for the way it portrayed Taipei in its phone software. And most recently, state media in China stopped NBA broadcasts after Houston Rockets, general manager, Daryl Morey tweeted a picture supporting the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. More than 40 foreign airlines have demanded stop referring to China, Hong Kong and Taiwan as separate countries during the season.

“As you know, my nation now has significant riots,” Ng said in a statement to Inven Global’s gaming website.

“My call on stream was just another form of opposition participation that I would like to get further exposure.” Activision Blizzard has relations to Chinese gaming giants Tencent Holdings Ltd. and NetEase Inc. to sell and often co-develop new entries in beloved franchises such as Call of Duty and Diablo in the world’s largest video game market and beyond. For the company, which happens to be part-owned by Tencent, there is a lot at stake as it ventures deeper into China.

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