California gaming company bans player for supporting Hong Kong protesters (Boycott Blizzard?)

The NBA isn’t the only organization eager to punish anyone who dares to defy communist China. An American esports company called Blizzard Entertainment, creators of World of Warcraft, cracked down on a winning player yesterday after he offered his support to Hong Kong protesters.

Inven Global reported that after his match in the Grandmasters league a Hong Kong-based player who goes by the handle “Blitzchung” appeared on a live stream wearing a gas mask. He briefly pulled the gas mask off and shouted, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!” Here’s the clip.

Afterward, Blitzchung explained his comments. “As you know there are serious protests in my country now,” he said. He added, “My call on stream was just another form of participation of the protest that I wish to grab more attention…I know what my action on stream means. It could cause me lot of trouble, even my personal safety in real life. But I think it’s my duty to say something about the issue.”

He was certainly right about this causing him a lot of trouble. In response, Blizzard issued a statement banning him for a year and rescinding all of his prize money: “Effective immediately, Blitzchung is removed from Grandmasters and will receive no prizing for Grandmasters Season 2. Additionally, Blitzchung is ineligible to participate in Hearthstone esports for 12 months beginning from Oct. 5th, 2019 and extending to Oct. 5th, 2020. We will also immediately cease working with both casters.”

Why would a US company be so quick to crack down on public resistance to communist tyranny? For the same reason all of the woke voices in the NBA have had nothing to say about Hong Kong this week, they are in business with mainland China. In fact, Blizzard Ent. and the NBA are in business with the same streaming company:

Blizzard is a US-based company, where speech is protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, but it also operates in authoritarian China thanks to a partnership with one of its China-based investors, Tencent. China issues only a certain number of game licenses a year, and US-based companies often partner with game companies based in the country as a way to access the vast market and grow their sales — but partnerships like that often lead to a clash of values…

Tellingly, Tencent is also a partner of the NBA, which is in crisis after the Houston Rockets’ general manager, Daryl Morey, faced a major backlash in China for tweeting in support of the Hong Kong protesters on Friday.

Tencent Sports has said they will no longer stream Rockets games because of the uproar over the pro-Hong Kong comments.

Over at Vox, Zack Beauchamp revealed that he is also a Hearthstone player and will be abandoning the game unless Blizzard reverses its decision. He’s also suggesting a boycott may be appropriate:

I’ve been playing Hearthstone daily for about two years, including spending some money on cards and reaching the top tier of the game’s competitive ladder (the Legend ranks). But now I’m done, both with Hearthstone and any other Activision Blizzard product, unless it reinstates Chung and the casters…

Censoring a professional player for expressing support for the democracy movement in Hong Kong — and seizing his money — is way over the line.

It isn’t merely adjusting a cosmetic part of the product to fit a particular market; it’s actively participating in the suppression of political speech on behalf of core liberal values. Blizzard is throwing its lot in with an authoritarian state, acting as an international agent of its repressive apparatus in opposition to fundamental human rights…

It’s hard to do much for the brave people taking to the streets from thousands of miles away, but international consumers do have leverage over international corporations. Punishing Blizzard for its behavior could help send a signal to other companies that acting as agents of the Chinese state carries a cost and that they need to think carefully before throwing Hong Kong under the bus.

I don’t play any Blizzard games but if I did I would join the boycott Beauchamp is proposing. He’s absolutely right about what’s at stake here. This isn’t about one esports player you’ve never heard of before now. It’s not a disagreement over tax policy or social justice or any of the things people have a right to disagree about. This is about fundamental issues that determine whether we can continue to have all those other disagreements. This is democracy vs communist dictatorship. Free speech vs censorship. Maybe if Blizzard’s stock takes a nosedive for a few weeks they’ll remember American companies are expected to stand up for the most basic values they have benefitted from.

Finally, check out the large statue that stands outside Blizzard’s headquarters in Irvine:

Employees for the company covered the saying “Every voice matters” which suggests that some people inside the building still know it’s wrong to kowtow to a communist dictatorship: