As Hong Kong faces a great deal of turmoil with its citizenry protesting the Chinese government, esports has not escaped unscathed in the heated situation. In a recent stream of the Hearthstone Grandmaster’s, Hong Kong player Ng "blitzchung" Wai Chung shared a statement of protest during a livestream. In response, Blizzard has removed blitzchung from play, as well as two casters who were involved in the stream in which it happened.
The original stream happened on October 6, 2019. The VOD has since been removed by the Hearthstone Twitch channel, but InvenGlobal shared the moment which drew attention in their original story. Reportedly blitzchung made a short aside in a post-game chat during the Taiwanese Hearthstone stream, saying in Chinese, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!”
The casters interviewing blitzchung appeared to bow their heads in an attempt to disassociate themselves with Wai Chung’s statement before it cut abruptly to an ad.
In a statement after the fact, blitzchung told InvenGlobal he stood by his protest as the best use of his platform as a successful Hearthstone player.
“As you know there are serious protests in my country now,” blitzchung commented. “My call on stream was just another form of participation of the protest that I wish to grab more attention. 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 lot of trouble, even my personal safety in real life. But I think it's my duty to say something about the issue.”
Regardless of both Ng Wai Chung’s beliefs or the efforts of the casters involved, Blizzard saw fit to remove both blitzchung and the casters from the Asian-Pacific Hearthstone scene, as announced in a press release on the evening of October 8, 2019.
Blizzard cited their official competition rules for as the reason of the dismissal of blitzchung.
“p.12, Section 6.1 (o)
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.”
The full statement can be seen below. It's worth noting that comments on the release are closed.
With blitzchung’s earnings entirely rescinded and the casters, who seemed to have no idea what was happening, also dismissed following the incident, the Hearthstone esports division of Blizzard sends a rather stark message during the political turmoil in Hong Kong. Even so, with companies like Chinese gaming giant Tencent holding a share of Activision Blizzard and the Chinese government having had a strict oversight on gaming and internet use in the region, it may also be a case where Blizzard’s hands are simply and unfortunately tied.
Either way, it’s an unfortunate outcome in the case of blitzchung and Asian-Pacific esports. We’ll have more on this story and further Hearthstone esports as it develops.
[h/t: Rod "Slasher" Breslau]
[Featured image by InvenGlobal]