A Hong Kong-based professional Hearthstone player has been banned from tournament play and had his winning's revoked after he expressed his support for protests in Hong Kong during an official Blizzard interview.
Ng Wai "blitzchung" Chung spoke out against the Chinese oppression in Hong Kong while being interviewed by the official Taiwanese Hearthstone organization following his victory against South Korean player Jang "DawN" Hyun Jae on October 6, InvenGlobal reports.
During the interview, Blitzchung wore a face mask on camera to show his support for the Hong Kong protestors who have been doing it to protect their identities, and it's also a reference to the government-issued ban on wearing masks while protesting.
During the stream, Blitzchung shouted, "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!" and the interview footage was quickly cut to a commericial break, and videos of the Grandmasters were removed online.
Blitzchung shared a statement with Invenglobal: “As you know there are serious protests in my country now," Ng said. "My call on stream was just another form of participation of the protest that I wish to grab more attention… It could cause me a lot of trouble, even my personal safety in real life. But I think it’s my duty to say something about the issue.”
There's a lot of public protests in Hong Kong right now, and it started earlier this year when Hong Kong announced plans to enact laws that would allow China to extradite Hong Kong citizens for judiciary reasons. While the city government backed down from plans to enact the laws, the liberation movement of the Hong Kong citizens who protested the laws escalates.
After the interview, Blizzard announced on a blog post that Ng Wai "blitzchung" Chung violated the 2019 Hearthstone Grandmasters Official Competition rules, and according to the company, Blitzchung will be removed from the Grandmasters, and that he will not receive prize money for his performance in Grandmasters Season 2. Blitzchung has also been banned from Hearthstone esports for 12 months starting on October 5, 2019. The casters in the interview also lost their contracts with Blizzard.
Blizzard said that Blitzchung's actions during the interview violated Rules seciton 6.1 (o) which reads:
Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms.
"Grandmasters is the highest tier of Hearthstone Esports and we take tournament rule violations very seriously," Blizzard said in the announcement. "After an investigation, we are taking the necessary actions to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future."
Blitzchung told IGN that he doesn't regret what he said during the interview. "I expected the decision by Blizzard, I think it's unfair, but I do respect their decision. I'm not [regretful] of what I said."
Back in 2014, Hong Kong-based Magic: The Gathering pro player Lee Shi Tian joined Hong Kong's previous Umbrella Movement protests in 2014, and named his Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir deck "Umbrella Revolution" in honor of the protests, CoolStuff Inc reported. Although Wizards of the Coast did not use the deck name during the coverage of the MTG event, Lee was not punished by Wizards as far as I'm aware.
With China becoming a more important market for collectible card games (whether it's tabletop or digital) than ever before, what would happen if Lee Shi Tian or another Hong Kong-based player protest in a similar way now? What would Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast do if China threatens to ban MTG in China and Hong Kong?