U.S. gaming giant Blizzard has banned a professional Hearthstone video gamer after he expressed support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong on Sunday.
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The ban came days before Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey caused an international stir by expressing similar support for the protesters who have been demonstrating for four straight months. The Hong Kong protests began as a pushback against Beijing's proposed extradition law but have grown into calls for American-style elections on the island province of China.
Blizzard banned Ng Wai Chung, who plays under the name "Blitzchung" from competing for a year and stripped him of any prize money he had coming in the 2019 Hearthstone Grandmasters Official Competition. Blitzchung typically earns between $500 and $3,000 per tournament.
Blitzchung ended an interview by donning a mask and saying "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!"
Blizzard used its discretion to determine that Blitzchung's actions had brought him "into public disrepute," offended "a portion or group of the public," or otherwise damaged Blizzard's image, according to Kotaku.com.
The gaming company's move was met with harsh criticism online. Blitzchung defended his political stance and explained the risk he took in standing up to China.
“As you know there are serious protests in my country now,” he said in a statement to Ivenglobal.com, “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.”
Blitzchung is from Hong Kong where protesters routinely hide their faces and conceal their identities for fear of reprisal from the Chinese communists on the mainland.
Blizzard joins the NBA, Tiffany's, Mariott and a raft of airlines in bowing to China's demands by curbing their speech.