Activision Blizzard Inc is facing a fierce backlash and calls for a boycott after a unit of the US game company punished a player for supporting Hong Kong’s protest movement, the latest cultural clash between the US and China.
Blizzard Entertainment banned Ng Wai Chung (吳偉聰), known as Blitzchung, from its Hearthstone Grandmasters e-sports competition for a year and withheld prize money he had already won after he used a slogan from Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
Players and fans around the world immediately responded with outrage over what they view as heavy-handed punishment and kowtowing to Chinese censorship.
The topic erupted online, with #blizzardboycott trending on Twitter.
“I will never play Blizzard’s game from now on, unless they apologize to blitzchung and to HK people. Blizzard sucks,” one person wrote on a forum discussion thread called ‘Solidarity with Blitzchung, Censored by Blizzard.’”
The incident began when Ng — dressed in a gas mask and goggles in defiance of authorities’ ban on face masks — said: “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age,” during a post-match interview on the official Taiwanese Hearthstone stream.
Blizzard terminated its contract with the two interviewers, who dived under the table as soon as Blitzchung made his statement.
Blizzard, developer of games such as World of Warcraft and Hearthstone, said in a statement that it instituted the ban to “prevent similar incidents” in the future.
On a Chinese microblogging site, Blizzard’s statement in Chinese was: “We will, as always, resolutely safeguard the country’s dignity.”
The blowback was immediate. In South Korea, Blizzard became a top trending subject on Twitter with people saying the company “prioritizes money over human rights” and that it is “crazy” and “‘disappointing.”
Blizzard has tie-ups with Chinese gaming houses Tencent Holdings (騰訊) and NetEase (網易) to distribute — and in some cases codevelop — new entries in beloved franchises such as Call of Duty and Diablo in the world’s biggest video game market and beyond.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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