Chung Ng Wai, the gamer who was banned by Blizzard Entertainment for vocally supporting Hong Kong protestors, had a simple reply when asked if he was afraid of violent or political retaliation from the Chinese government: “Kind of. But I’m not afraid.”
In a brief interview with TheWrap on Tuesday, Chung — aka Blitzchung — added he has no immediate plans to counteract his ban. Instead, he said he “will probably be focusing on my school first.”
Earlier in the day, Blizzard sparked a gaming firestorm for slapping Blitzchung with a one-year ban from its “Hearthstone” tournaments for shouting “Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our times!” during a post-match interview on Sunday. Blitzchung, a native of Hong Kong, was wearing a mask and goggles, the trademark look of Hong Kong pro-democracy protestors, during his interview.
Blizzard Entertainment, a subsidiary of Santa Monica-based Activision Blizzard, pointed to a rule barring players from making comments that “brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image.” The company is also declining to pay Ng $10,000 for participating in a recent high-level tournament.
Chinese conglomerate Tencent is a minority stakeholder in Activision Blizzard.
Blizzard did not respond to TheWrap’s request for comment on Tuesday morning.
“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,” Blizzard told The Verge on Tuesday morning.
For months, Hong Kongers have been protesting against increased involvement from China’s Communist government. China imposes draconian digital censorship laws against its mainland citizens, stifling free speech for years through a network of moderators, technical restraints and legislative regulations.
Some Blizzard employees pushed back against the company’s decision. Kevin Hovdestad, a former Blizzard worker, tweeted a picture from the company’s Irvine, Calif. headquarters where plaques saying “every voice matters” and “think critically” had been covered up. The two phrases are part of Blizzard’s mission statement.
Not everyone at Blizzard agrees with what happened.
Both the "Think Globally" and "Every Voice Matters" values have been covered up by incensed employees this morning. pic.twitter.com/I7nAYUes6Q
— Kevin Hovdestad (@lackofrealism) October 8, 2019
YongYea, a popular video game reviewer on YouTube, called Blizzard’s ban “gross” and said it gives off the impression it wants to satisfy Chinese censors.
Blizzard’s decision comes as the NBA looks to calm its Chinese business partners after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted a picture in support of Hong Kong protestors last week.
Hearthstone, the game Blitzchung was playing, is an online card and strategy game where players build a deck of magical cards with various abilities and attributes and battle an opponent in 1-on-1 matches. The game is based on “World of Warcraft” and is one of the most popular games that’s streamed in the world.
Activision Blizzard’s stock dropped 2.3% during Tuesday trading, closing at $54.13 per share.
Lawrence Yee contributed to this report.