It’s not just physical sports like basketball that appear to be under the thumb of China. Esports is now caught up in the controversy after Blizzard Entertainment suspended a player from the upcoming Hearthstone Grandmasters competition after he publicly professed support for Honk Kong protesters fighting for their freedom.
Hong Kong player Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung competed a match over the weekend during a livestream of the competition. After the match, he was to be interviewed on the official Taiwanese Hearthstone stream. When he appeared on the stream, he was wearing a gas mask. Before the interview, he removed the mask and yelled in Chinese: “Liberate Honk Kong, revolution of our age,” according to Esports news website InvenGlobal.
The outlet then reported that the interviewers hid behind their desk to avoid being “associated with the statement.”
The statement bristled management at Blizzard Entertainment, the company behind Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and others. Blizzard removed Blitzchung from its upcoming Hearthstone competition and stated he would not receive any prize money for the competition so far. The company released a statement on Tuesday explaining that Blitzchung violated the rules to the competition that state:
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 will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms.
Blizzard said that it takes “tournament rule violations very seriously” and that it investigated the incident and would punish Blitzchung:
Effective immediately, Blitzchung is removed from Grandmasters and will receive no prizing for Grandmasters Season 2. Additionally, Blitzchung is ineligible to participate in Hearthstone esports for 12 months beginning from Oct. 5th, 2019 and extending to Oct. 5th, 2020. We will also immediately cease working with both casters.
We’d like to re-emphasize tournament and player conduct within the Hearthstone esports community from both players and talent. 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’s actions come on the heels of the NBA’s capitulation to China after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for Honk Kong protesters. As The Daily Wire’s Ryan Saavedra reported on Monday, NBA chief communications officer Mike Bass released a statement apologizing for Morey’s comments and insisting they don’t represent the beliefs of the NBA or the Rockets:
We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable. While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them. We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.
Morey later apologized for his comments.
China has also banned the popular TV show “South Park” due to its mockery of the country.