A Hearthstone Hong Kong controversy has led to a 12-month ban for Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai and the ending of a working relationship with two casters.
Blitzchung was speaking with the casters in a post-match interview for the Hearthstone Grandmasters regular season for the Asia-Pacific region as reported by Inven Global. His camera feed revealed that he was wearing a gasmask and goggles, a nod to the current protests taking place in his native Hong Kong. Blitzchung then pulled down his gasmask and made a short statement:
"Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!"
Once the production team of the stream realized what was happening, they quickly cut to a commercial. It was then that the fallout from Blizzard over the Hearthstone Hong Kong controversy began.
Blizzard Bans Blitzchung and Withholds Prize Money Over Hearthstone Hong Kong Statement
Blizzard's reaction to the Hearthstone Hong Kong controversy was to consider the incident a "competition rule violation". Specifically, they said that he violated Section 6.1 (o), which we'll reproduce here:
2019 HEARTHSTONE® GRANDMASTERS OFFICIAL COMPETITION RULES v1.4 p.12, Section 6.1 (o)
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.
As a result of this decision, Blizzard Entertainment has immediately removed Blitzchung from the Grandmasters Esports competition and will not pay him any of the prize money that he has earned.
Hearthstone Casters Canned
The two casters who were interviewing Blitzchung have effectively been removed from consideration of working with Blizzard again in the future, although it's not as simple as it may seem at its face. Reportedly, the two casters encouraged Blitzchung to make his statement.
"[The] casters requested/encouraged Blitzchung to say what he said in Mandarin (in case you didn't understand the clip)," reads a tweet from @czhihong on Twitter They said[,] 'Say the eight words, then we'll end the interview immediately.' Then, they hid under the desk."
Understandably, a good portion of the /r/Hearthstone subreddit (and Reddit in general) are upset at Blizzard's decision; discussion of the Hearthstone Hong Kong controversy has taken up the #1 and #2 spots on /r/all, a metareddit that tracks the most popular posts on the site.
"Guess we know Bli$$ard/Activi$ion$ stance on basic human rights," read one comment on /r/Hearthstone's discussion of the controversy. "They may get more Chinese money but they won't be getting anymore of mine[.]"
"I would love to see this backfire on Blizzard & see other [Grandmaster-ranked players] opt out of playing anymore," read another comment on the same subreddit. "If Gerry Thompson can leave MTG Worlds, I don't see how it's impossible."
Commentary on the /r/worldnews submission was similarly intense.
"Companies are only brave when they defend alphabet people because it's safe and there is no risk," stated one Redditor. "As soon as they meet a real oppressor they bend the knee like the greedy guttless cowards they truly are."
Blitzchung Speaks Out
Prior to Blizzard Entertainment's ruling on the Hearthstone Hong Kong controversy, Blitzchung gave a statement to Inven Global on his actions.
"As you know there are serious protests in my country now," his statement began. "My call on stream was just another form of participation of the protest that I wish to grab more attention. I put so much effort in that social movement in the past few months, that I sometimes couldn't focus on preparing my Grandmaster match"
"I know what my action on stream means," the statement concluded. "It could cause me lot of trouble, even my personal safety in real life. But I think it's my duty to say something about the issue."
What do you think of the Hearthstone Hong Kong controversy? Do you think Blizzard's decision on the matter was correct? Let us know in the comments below!