Mentioned in this article
- Professional Hearthstone player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai has been suspended for comments supporting Hong Kong’s liberation on a Grandmasters broadcast.
- He will be suspended from Hearthstone esports for a full year and receive no prize money from Grandmasters. The commentators have also been fired.
- Hong Kong has seen large-scale protests for months in support of liberation from China. The NBA is also dealing with the fallout of pro-liberation comments from a team GM.
Blizzard Entertainment has suspended a professional Hearthstone player following his comments in support of Hong Kong liberation during an Asia-Pacific Grandmasters competitive broadcast.
During a post-match interview (via Kotaku), player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai wore a mask and goggles similar to those of pro-liberation protestors in Hong Kong, and shouted, “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age!” As he did so, the casters were seen ducking behind the desk before ending the interview and cutting to an advertisement transition screen.
Blizzard has issued a statement explaining that Ng Wai’s comments violated a rule about competitor behavior. Here is the description of the cited rule:
“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’s 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 such, Ng Wai has been suspended from Hearthstone esports events for a full year, ending Oct. 5, 2020, and will receive no prize money for the current Grandmasters season. Blizzard will also no longer work with the commentators from the broadcast.
“We’d like to re-emphasize tournament and player conduct within the Hearthstone esports community from both players and talent,” reads Blizzard’s statement. “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.”
Hong Kong has been embroiled in large-scale protests since June, ignited by a proposed bill in the country that could allow extradition of accused criminals to mainland China. Although the bill has been halted, protests continue throughout the country in support of liberation from China. Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China and has its own governing system. Over the weekend, Hong Kong banned the public wearing of masks to try to combat protests.
Blizzard’s decision comes amidst a similar controversy in the NBA, in which Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey came under fire for his own pro-liberation comments on Twitter over the weekend. Both the NBA and Rockets quickly distanced themselves from Morey’s comments, and Morey himself apologized. However, Chinese companies have halted their partnerships with the Rockets, and China has since halted all NBA broadcasts after league commissioner Adam Silver defended Morey’s right to free speech.
The NBA is hugely popular in China, and this particular dispute could also have an impact on the esports world, as well. Gen.G Esports recently announced that it will field a Chinese team in the NBA 2K League in 2020, making it both the first international team and first non-NBA-related team in the league. The NBA 2K League had previously partnered with Chinese company Tencent to broadcast playoffs and finals games from the 2019 season via its video networks in the country.
The Esports Observer has reached out to Blizzard for comment and will update the story as new information becomes available.
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