Blizzard, which runs an e-sports program called Hearthstone and is currently holding a worldwide gaming tour which it calls the Masters Tour, is banning pro-Hong Kong statements from its Twitch channel.
“Viewers who type ‘Free Hong Kong’ during the Hearthstone Masters Tour will receive a 24-hour chat restriction from the PlayHearthstone Twitch channel,” Dot Esports said. “Dot Esports tested this by typing the message in the chat. Our message was instantly erased and we were timed out from chat for 24 hours.”
Blizzard is an American gaming company that faced worldwide backlash after it suspended gamer Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai and stripped his winnings from a recent tournament and suspended the player for a year. Blitzchung’s crime was using the “Free Hong Kong” slogan in an interview after winning the tournament.
It later reversed the decision, shortening the ban to six months and restoring the prize winnings.
The company’s retaliatory censorship tactics prompted more than two dozen Blizzard employees to walk out of work Tuesday afternoon protesting the company for capitulating to communist China’s policy of censorship, along with gamers across the world flooding Reddit with warnings vowing to stop using Blizzard’s products amid its anti-democratic actions.
On Friday, Blizzard changed its tune, announcing it will reduce the one-year suspension of Blitzchung to six-months and will restore the prize money it withheld.
Blizzard, which created gaming franchises World of Warcraft and Overwatch, does a massive amount of business in China, but claimed during the Blitzchung incident that it did not punish the gamer in order to capitulate to China.
“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,” J. Allen Brack, the president of Blizzard Entertainment, reportedly said.
The company said in a statement that its rules exist “to keep the focus on the game and on the tournament to the benefit of a global audience, and that was the only consideration in the actions we took.”
“If this had been the opposing viewpoint delivered in the same divisive and deliberate way, we would have felt and acted the same,” it continued.
Still, the company appears to be forcing its fans to take a pro-Beijing stance in opposition to democracy in Hong Kong.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) has faced a similarly awkward position. The league generates a great deal of revenue from China, and its main sponsors like Adidas, along with Nike which sponsors many of its players, infamously mass produces their apparel in Chinese sweatshops. The league, which is known for its “wokeness,” did not want to risk hurting its bottom line, and when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Worley tweeted his support for Hong Kong, the league took an official stance against him. Similarly, star players like LeBron James and Stephen Curry, known for their social justice activism, decided to shut up and dribble in the face of questions about whether they would continue to support the oppressive communist regime in Beijing.
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