US video game developer and events organiser Blizzard Entertainment has suspended Hong Kong-based esport player Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung for 12 months, and withheld his prize money for participation in their Hearthstone Grandmasters competition, after he shouted “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time” during a livestream.
The game has a large following in mainland China and across Asia, and Chinese technology firm Tencent owns around five percent of Blizzard’s parent company, Activision Blizzard.
Ng also wore goggles and a respirator, the usual outfit for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
Blizzard said in a statement on Monday that Ng had violated the rules of the competition, referencing a clause that forbid “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”.
The company also cut ties with two lifestream hosts who interviewed Ng who worked for the official Taiwanese Hearthstone organisation, despite them avoiding the camera to disassociate themselves from Ng’s comments.
Blizzard said in a press release: “We’d like to re-emphasise tournament and player conduct within the Hearthstone e-sports community from both players and talent.”
“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.”
This follows a major furore in China over Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweets on the Hong Kong democracy protests. The Houston Rockets and the NBA have faced a backlash from Chinese commercial partners, the government, sports officials and fans.