In a post-game interview, Hong Kong Hearthstone player ‘blitzchung’ called for the liberation of Hong Kong, resulting in a swift and unjust response by Blizzard.
On Sunday, after a Hearthstone Grandmasters match, Hong Kong pro-player Ng Wai Chung, better known as “Blitzchung”, was interviewed on his experience during the tournament. The interview started as one would expect, until near the end, when he covered his face with a mask which his countryman can be seen wearing during the protests.
The casters cover under the table to not be associated with Blitzchung, he pulls down his respirator and yells out “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age!” The Stream quickly cuts to a commercial break after that.
In the past three days, Blizzard has removed videos of the incident, removed Blitzchung from the Grandmasters league, rescinded his winnings, and banned him from competing in Hearthstone esports for one year. They have also ended their contracts with the two casters who interviewed him.
Blizzard justified their actions by citing the Official Competition Rules which allows them to per their own discretion remove from the competition anyone who “offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image,” and take away any prize won.
The public post in which they justify their actions also has all comments disabled, which is unusual, since no other post has ever had comments disabled.
Since there is some justice in the world, Blizzard's actions have backfired more than they could have expected.
On Twitter, Blizzard is the top trending topic worldwide and #BlizzardBoycott is in the Top 10 trending hashtags.
Over on Reddit, every Blizzard-related subreddit is full of criticism and calls for boycotts. Even the Hong Kong and the World News subreddits have similar topics.
With so much outrage online, the news made their way to most mainstream media too. Even reaching US Senators, and for once the Democrats and Republicans agreed on something.
“Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t live in China must either self censor or face dismissal & suspensions. China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally. Implications of this will be felt long after everyone in U.S. politics today is gone.” - Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).
“Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party. No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck.” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Even internally there was backlash, with Blizzard employees covering with paper the "Think Globally" and "Every Voice Matters" company values engraved in a statute outside Blizzard HQ.
That’s just three days, it will be interesting to see the response and how far the boycott will go. We will be sure to keep you posted on it.