It’s no surprise that Hong Kong’s attempt at liberation had been noticed by many. This endeavour does not simply exist in just politics, but in various other industries as well. And esports is no exception.
The Hong Kong protests are a series of demonstrations which began in order to oppose an extradition bill that was first brought to the Hong Kong Parliament floor in April this year. The bill itself made it so that criminals in Hong Kong would be tried in mainland China. This bill caused many to oppose the government and voiced their concerns by marching on the streets. By June, millions of citizens protested, displaying their dislike for the extradition bill. However, it became very clear that the Hong Kong government had no desire to withdraw this bill at that time. Now, the Hong Kong government had given in to that demand, but more have popped up. The protesters do not wish to be deemed as ‘rioters,’ to release people who have been arrested, to have an investigation on the Hong Kong Police and the brutality they have enforced on citizens, and the availability for a democratic vote.
And the nation of Hong Kong was granted full autonomy back in 1999, where they earned their freedoms of speech, liberty, assembly, association, etc.
How does this tie into esports?
Well, during a post-game interview during the Hearthstone Grandmasters, one of the players, Blitzchung, said “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!” This prompted the casters to hide behind their screens in order to avoid being associated with Blitzchung. Afterwards, it didn’t take very long for the stream to go on an ad break. The clip of this no longer exists and neither does the VODs of the Grandmasters Third Day – However it is still making the rounds via Twitter.
— Cecil Yuen (@yuen_cecil) October 7, 2019
Blizzard finally gave out their statement on the issue. Blitzchung is banned from participating in the Hearthstone Grandmasters for a year and will receive no prize money. Not only that, but the two casters who were working that day were also released. They have disabled comments on that statement.
What does this all mean?
It means that Blizzard only really cares about their image and their market, especially the market in China. And, to be fair, the market there is massive. It’s unrivalled by any other region that Hearthstone is played in, so from a business perspective, it makes sense. But from a human’s rights perspective, it only really shows that Blizzard cares about the greed and not the people’s rights, especially the right for free speech. Blizzard’s greed is really shown by both this move and their actions to remove Blitzchung, which did not bode well for them on social media. While they the disabled comments, many people on Twitter voiced their opinions on this issue.
I made a twitter account just for this….
As a consumer I am disgusted by your actions to Blitzchung, and hope you change your ways. It should of just been a mere WARNING. But no, y'all went straight to the banhammer.
Not supporting Blizzard Games any longer. 👋
— James Riley (@JamesRi01522634) October 8, 2019
I will stop buying any @Blizzard_Ent Anything until Blitzchung's Grandmaster Status and prize pool is restored. I don't care if there was a rule involved, by doing this you are punishing people that support Hong Kong's issues, and supporting the gov'ts communist agenda.
— Nathan Henry (@nhenry45) October 8, 2019
— Marcus Crumley (@CRUM_de_la_CRUM) October 8, 2019
It’s safe to say that Blizzard has certainly messed up on this. Whether or not they realize it, the pages of history turn and they are firmly standing on the wrong page.
Update: Brian “Kibler” Kibler, a long time player and streamer of Hearthstone had given his statement on the issue. He agrees that Blizzard were in their right to ban Blitzchung, but the punishment to both the player and to the casters were extremely severe and were not favorable by any means necessary. If you wish to read the whole statement, you can read it here.