Blizzard Suspends Hearthstone Pro Blitzchung for Supporting Hong Kong Protests in Interview

Blizzard suspended Hong Kong Hearthstone player Chung "blitzchung" Ng Wai from competition and rescinded his prize winnings Tuesday after he expressed support for Hong Kong protestors during a live broadcast.

Blitzchung appeared on the official Taiwanese Hearthstone Grandmasters broadcast this weekend wearing a gas mask, recalling those worn by protestors in Hong Kong. During the interview, he lifted his mask and shouted "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!"

The casters conducting the interview immediately ducked behind their desks to avoid being associated with the message, and the broadcast team cut to commercial.

In response, Blizzard has removed blitzchung from Hearthstone Grandmasters, will withhold his prize money, and will ban him from Hearthstone esports until Oct. 5, 2020. Blizzard will also cease working with both casters involved in the exchange.

Hong Kong has been embroiled in protests against the Chinese government for months in an escalating conflict between citizens and state.

Speaking to InvenGlobal after his appearance on stream, Blitzchung provided the following statement:

"As you know there are serious protests in my country now. 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."

"While we stand by one's right to express individual thoughts and opinions," Blizzard stated in its ruling, "players and other participants that elect to participate in our esports competitions must abide by the official competition rules."

The publisher cited Hearthstone Grandmasters rules page 12, section 6.1 (o) in its decision. That section states Blizzard can remove a player from Grandmasters and reduce their prize total to $0 if it determines the player to have engaged in "any act that, in Blizzard's sole discretion, brings [the player] into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise Blizzard's image."

A parallel controversy is currently unfolding in the NBA after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted out support for supporters in Hong Kong. Blizzard, like the NBA, stands to lose a substantial amount of money by falling out of favor with the Chinese government and having its access to the Chinese audience imperiled.

Blitzchung did not immediately return a request for comment.