Blizzard has broken its silence after suspending Hearthstone player Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai for voicing his support for the Hong Kong protesters standing up against the Chinese government, but it appears that the damage has already been done.
In a statement posted on Blizzard’s website, the developer and publisher’s President, J. Allen Brack, said blitzchung’s suspension was reduced from one year to six months, and that he would be allowed to keep the prize money he earned at the event where he expressed is pro-Hong Kong stance. The broadcasters who interviewed blitzchung also saw their suspensions reduced by the same amount of time.
Brack insisted, however, that the decision for the suspensions was for breaking the rule of keeping Blizzard’s esports events focused on games, and not due to the actual content of the message. “I want to be clear: Our relationships in China had no influence on our decision,” Brack wrote.
However, it took nearly a week for Blizzard to release its views on the matter, including the reduction of blitzchung’s suspension. Over that time, the company suffered immense pressure from various communities for what was seen as a concession to China, which is a massive gaming market. Players have boycotted popular Blizzard titles beyond Hearthstone such as World of Warcraft and Overwatch, employees have staged several walkouts, and lawmakers have called out the apparent support for the Chinese government’s suppression of free speech.
It remains to be seen if Brack’s statement will quell the outrage against blitzchung’s suspension, but it would appear that people remain unhappy with Blizzard. In fact, multiple groups are reportedly organizing protests that will take place outside BlizzCon, the company’s annual convention, as a response to the incident.
Fight for the Future is one of the groups preparing to stage a protest outside the Anaheim Convention Center. Its product director, Dayton Young, told Kotaku that Blizzard’s new statement on the matter shows the power of public pressure, but he does not think that the core issue is resolved, so the planned protest will proceed.
“The heart of the matter is, they still censored a man and punished him for speaking out and advocating for his own political freedom, and that’s what they’re continuing to do,” said Young.
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