A Hong Kong-based professional e-sports player has been suspended for 12 months after he shouted "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time" during a livestream.
Ng Wai-chung, who also goes by the blitzchung username, expressed support for the citywide protests in a post-match interview on Sunday. He also wore goggles and a respirator – the typical outfit for pro-democracy protesters going up against riot police.
[BREAKING] Hong Kong Hearthstone player @blitzchungHS Calls for release of his country in post-game interview: https: //t.co/3AgQAaPioj
– 🎃 Inven Global 🎃 (@InvenGlobal) October 6, 2019
Ng was competing in a top tournament for the Hearthstone game, run by American gaming company Blizzard. The game has a large following in mainland China and across Asia, and Chinese tech firm Tencent owns about five percent of Blizzard's parent company, Activision Blizzard.
Blizzard said in a statement on Monday that it violated competition rules, specifically a clause that forbids “engaging in any act that, in Blizzard's sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a part or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image. ”
The company did not elaborate on how Ng's actions violated the rules.
Ng will be removed from the tournament without receiving any prize money, and he will be ineligible to enter Hearthstone e-sports contests until October 5, 2020.
Blizzard also suspended the two livestream hosts, or "casters," who interviewed Chung, despite them ducking their heads below the table to avoid associating themselves with his comments. The two men worked for the official Taiwanese Hearthstone organization.
"We are keen to re-emphasize the tournament and player performance within the Hearthstone e-sports community from both players and talent," the gaming company said.
"While we stand by one's right to express individual thoughts and opinions, players and other participants that elect to participate in our esports competitions must abide by the official competition rules."
Ng told HKFP that he would not appeal the ban despite finding it unfair. "I expect this to happen and I respect Blizzard's decision," he said.
Earlier, Ng wrote in a statement that his decision to shout the slogan was "just another form of 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, ”he added.
He also told gaming news outlet IGN that he did not regret his actions: “just not [regretful] of what I said… I should be afraid of these kinds of white terror. ”
Many users have left angry comments on the Blizzard subreddit, with some saying they will boycott the company's games. One wrote: "I've spent thousands of dollars on Blizzard games and subscriptions over the last 20 years and if this is their stance then I'm done with Blizzard."
Others decried the company for what they saw as hypocrisy: "How can this company support LGBT rights and give minority groups representation in their games while in the same breath deleting an interview with a hearthstone player because he supports the Kong Kong protesters?"
HKFP has reached out to Blizzard for further comment.
Since June, Hong Kong has seen large-scale protests against a bill that would have enabled extraditions to China, which have evolved into sometimes violent displays of dissent over Beijing's encroachment, democracy and alleged police brutality.
The slogan "Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our time" was first used by jailed local activist Edward Leung, and has been widely adopted as a key slogan of the ongoing pro-democracy movement.
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