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Democratic and Republican lawmakers criticize Apple, Blizzard in letter

Several U.S. lawmakers composed two bipartisan letters this week calling out Apple and Blizzard Entertainment and condemning both companies’ recent decisions that were allegedly made to appease Chinese businesses.

The first letter, addressed to Apple CEO Tim Cook, expressed “strong concern” regarding the company’s decision to remove HKMap from its App Store. HKMap allows users to keep tabs on police occupancy and was utilized by Hong Kong activists on the pro-democracy side of the ongoing debate. Apple removed the app earlier this month, claiming that it was being used for criminal activity. HKMap’s developers later stated that there was no evidence supporting the claim.

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“In the face of brutal repression, tools like HKMap let peaceful demonstrators share locations to avoid and help to keep peaceful protesters out of harm’s way,” the letter says. “Cases like these raise [a] real concern about whether Apple and other large U.S. corporate entities will bow to growing Chinese demands rather than lose access to a billion Chinese consumers.”

Lawmakers that collaborated on the letter include Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), and Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-New Jersey).

The second letter was authorized by some of the same lawmakers and addressed to Robert Kotick, CEO of Blizzard parent company Activision Blizzard. Similar to the first letter, lawmakers criticized the company’s recent decisions, including its decision to ban a competitive Hearthstone player after he voiced his support for the Hong Kong protesters.

Hearthstone player Chung Ng Wai
Hearthstone player Chung Ng Wai

“Your company claims to stand by one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions,” the lawmakers said. “Because your company is such a pillar of the gaming industry, your disappointing decision could have a chilling effect on gamers who seek to use their platform to promote human rights and basic freedoms.”

Other incidents not addressed in the letter, but just as relevant to the company’s criticism, include Blizzard Entertainment issuing a six-month ban to three collegiate Heathstone players after the trio held up a “Free Hong Kong, Boycott Blizz” sign during a competition stream. The company has also been banning anyone caught posting pro-Hong Kong comments on the Hearthstone Twitch chat.

The protest began in March in opposition to a proposed extradition bill and have since expanded to include other grievances and demands for greater democracy.

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