This past weekend during the Hearthstone Grandmasters, Ng Wai "blitzchung" Chung appeared in a post-match interview to call for the liberation of Hong Kong from the Communist Party of China. Today Blizzard responded to Chung's comments by banning him from Hearthstone esports for an entire year, removing him from Grandmasters, and rescinding any prizes from Grandmasters Season 2.
According to Blizzard, Chung violated Hearthstone Grandmasters rules with his comments about Hong Kong's liberation. Blizzard cites page 12, section 6.1 of the Hearthstone competition rules, which state: "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's 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."
Even though Blizzard has pointed out the specific rule that Chung violated, many online have criticized the company, accusing it of pandering to the Communist Party of China. People have pointed out how the Communist Party of China aggressively censors anything that may be construed as criticism of the party, and they have accused Blizzard of banning Chung just to appease the Chinese government.
The backlash to Blizzard's decision to ban Chung has been severe, resulting in #BoycottBlizzard to trend on Twitter, and for the Blizzard subreddit to be temporarily shut down. Many fans have expressed outrage and disappointment at Blizzard's decision, though the company has yet to release another statement beyond its Asia-Pacific ruling that it released earlier today.
If the #BoycottBlizzard movement gains traction, one has to wonder exactly how Blizzard will react. It's possible that the company will backpedal on its decision to ban Chung, or maybe it may be convinced to lessen his punishment. Alternatively, Blizzard may just stick to its guns and move forward with Chung's ban.
In the meantime, the discussion of Chung's comments and his subsequent ban have completely overshadowed the Hearthstone Grandmasters event, not to mention the Hearthstone Halloween event. It will be interesting to see if Blizzard does anything to try to appease angry fans in time for BlizzCon 2019, which is right around the corner.
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft is out now for iOS, Android, and PC.