Blizzard Backlash over Suspended Hong Kong Player Keeps Getting Worse

#BoycottBlizzard. The P.R. disaster of our age!

Blizzard is one of the most successful and beloved triple-A game publishers and developers in the world, but is currently experiencing one of the biggest P.R. nightmares in corporate history --all thanks to how it handled one of its professional player's support for the protests in Hong Kong.

Reddit and twitter are already memeing this controversy. Here is Blitzchung as a Heartstone card.

Hong-Kong based Heartstone Pro player BlitzChung found himself suspended by Blizzard earlier this month for voicing his support for the protests in Hong Kong. Not long after joining a live post-game interview with two of Blizzard's own E-sports sportscasters, Ng "Blitzchung" Wai Chung could be seen wearing a mask, shouting "Free Hong Kong! Revolution of our age!" The two sportscasters hosting BlitzChung could then be seen ducking under the table shortly afterward, but by that point, the damage was already done.

Blizzard then banned BlitzChung from the Heartstone league, as well as the Heartstone Game. Blizzard then took back ten thousand dollars worth of Prize money won by the player throughout his Heartstone pro career, and --just to add insult to injury-- banned both sportscasters who were hosting the interview that night, despite them not even showing support for BlitzChung's protest during the broadcast.

As a result of this controversy, Blitzchung is the most popular Heartstone player in history, and his message has entered the western mainstream. Talk about the Streisand effect.

Like most tone-deaf corporations, Blizzard wasn't prepared for how hard this knee-jerk reaction would bite them in the ass. Thousands of Blizzard gamers worldwide have taken to social media, openly boycotting blizzard games, for what many feel was an unfair judgement motivated by corporate greed. Many are even calling it a corporate maneuver to kiss up to the corporation's Chinese shareholders.

But Blizzard would like you to think this wasn't the case. According to The Daily Wire, Blizzard Entertainment President J. Allen Brack, addressing the controversial decision to suspend the pro Heartstone player.

The specific views expressed by blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made. I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision.
We want to ensure that we maintain a safe and inclusive environment for all our players, and that our rules and processes are clear. All of this is in service of another important Blizzard value—Play Nice; Play Fair.

Blizzard feels that Blitzchung's decision to throw his weight behind the protest publicly, violated Blizzard's rules regarding post-game interviews, stating that players are not allowed to address any topic outside of the game itself. Though the company "Values freedom of expression," official broadcasts must be "about the tournament."

Riot Games also chimed in on the controversy in solidarity with Blizzard, stating that players must not voice politically sensitive topics during official tournament broadcasts.

Fortnite developer Epic Games, however, swings in the exact opposite direction, stating that it will not punish its players for political expression. This is interesting, considering the Triple-A developer is owned by Tencent Games; a Chinese mega-corporation that also has its tendrils in Riot Games.

What is the Hong Kong protest, Anyway?

Mei --a character from Blizzard's hit hero shooter Overwatch-- has become the new mascot for the Hong Kong protests now. Talk about backfiring.
When the British-occupied island nation of Hong Kong was returned to the Chinese government in 1842, an agreement was reached between the Chinese and British nations, known as the "one country, two systems" deal. It stated that the Island would be free from either country's legal sanctions or interference for 50 years, with exception of "foreign and defense affairs." As a result of this agreement between the two empires, the people of Hong Kong enjoyed freedoms that other Chinese mainlanders never had. Things like the right freedom of expression, democracy, and the right to peacefully assemble.

But in 2019, the Hong Kong prime minister had plans to support a bill that would allow extradition of Hong Kong prisoners to mainland China for prosecution; a direct violation of the agreement between China and the UK. The bill would be put on ice, and later scrapped entirely, but the Hong Kong president elect ___'s steadfast support of the bill, despite major protests and violent crackdowns that lasted for several months, ensured that even with the bill resented, the damage was already done.

But this isn't the one and only reason there is a mass protest on Hong Kong right now. Hong Kong citizens have been expressing concerns that China has been interfering in Hong Kong's independent government for decades -- even accusations that the Chinese have even made laws to disqualify pro-democracy legislators.
To make matters worse, the so-called "extraditions" the bill would have supported were already happening, with the disappearances of 5 Hong Kong book sellers, and and a businessman critical of the Chinese regime, who would all later re-emerge as prisoners in custody in China.

American Lawmakers are pissed.

The most upvoted blizzard-related image on Reddit.
This act by Blizzard was apparently so egregious that politicians from both democratic and republican parties have taken to publicly criticize the California-based game developer.
Marc Rubio, a Republican Senator from Florida had this to say:

Recognize what is happening here. People who don't live in China must 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 U.S. Politics today is gone.

Senetor Ron Wyden even chimed in.

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.

Current and former employees are also pissed

The internet is making Heartstone cards mocking Blizzard for sucking up to China

Everyone from Twitch streamers to current employees have joined in in dog-piling on Blizzard. Employees even begun covering up signs at Blizzard's Irvine headquarters that say "all voices matter".

Mark Kern, industry veteran and former World of Warcraft lead developer has even taken to twitter in an angry, curse-laden firestorm about his former employer's decision.

There doesn't seem to be any end in sight for the Overwatch developer, as the outrage surrounding the company's decision reaches Battlefront II levels. Stay tuned for more on the story as it happens.
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