Activision Blizzard suspended Hearthstone pro Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai on Tuesday after he spoke up in support of protests in Hong Kong during a post-match interview during Hearsthone’s Asia-Pacific Grandmaster tournament on October 6.
Two days later, on October 8, Activision Blizzard suspended him from competing in Hearthstone esports tournaments for a year, rescinded his $3000 winnings from the tournament, and fired the two people who interviewed him.
Each year, Hearhstone’s best players compete in regional tournaments that narrow the field to 48 Grandmasters. After the regionals, the Grandmasters play for a $500,000 prize pool. After winning a match in the Asia-Pacific regional, Chung streamed a post-victory interview while wearing ski goggles and a gas mask, a look often worn by protestors in Hong Kong to mitigate the effects of tear gas.
“Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time,” Chung said on the stream, a phrase that’s become a rallying cry for protestors in Hong Kong.
The match is still available online, but the controversial moment of political protest has been scrubbed from Twitch and YouTube. In a statement published on October 8, Activision Blizzard announced it was suspending Chung for violating official competition rules.
“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,” Activision Blizzard said, citing its rules.
“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,” Activision Blizzard said. Comments are disabled on the post.
The protests in Hong Kong began in June when its leadership proposed a law that would allow the extradition of criminals to mainland China. The government rescinded the proposed bill in September, but protests continue. The people in the streets are now demanding greater democracy in Hong Kong and an investigation into the violent actions of the police during the protests.
"As you know there are serious protests in my country now. My call on stream was just another form of participation of the protest that I wish to grab more attention,” Chung told esports website Inven Global. “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. It could cause me [a] lot of trouble, even my personal safety in real life. But I think it's my duty to say something about the issue."
Chung isn’t the only high profile media personality to clash with China this month. Beijing banned South Park after the cartoon aired an episode critical of its censorship of art.
“Fight for Freedom. Standing with Hong Kong,” Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets NBA team, tweeted last weekend. On Monday morning, Morey had deleted the tweet and posted an apology. Tencent, a media company with the exclusive rights to stream the NBA in China and a 4.9 percent stake in Activision Blizzard, immediately suspended NBA broadcasts after Morey’s initial tweet.
Activision Blizzard did not immediately respond to our request for comment, and Chung declined to comment.