The esports world was shocked on Monday when Blizzard announced that it has suspended esports pro Chung “blitzchung” Ng and won’t be allowing him to participate in the 2019 Hearthstone Grandmasters following his public comments supporting Hong Kong’s right to independence.
According to Blizzard, the incident occurred during a live video stream that also involved two Hearthstone casters.
“Grandmasters is the highest tier of Hearthstone Esports and we take tournament rule violations very seriously,” stated Blizzard. “After an investigation, we are taking the necessary actions to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. Effective immediately, Blitzchung is removed from Grandmasters and will receive no prizing for Grandmasters Season 2. Additionally, Blitzchung is ineligible to participate in Hearthstone esports for 12 months beginning from Oct. 5th, 2019 and extending to Oct. 5th, 2020. We will also immediately cease working with both casters.”
Blizzard concluded its announcement by stating that it still supports the rights of individual athletes to express their opinions.
The timing of blitzchung’s suspension coincides with a recent South Park episode called “Band in China,” which highlights just how far US corporations and sports leagues, like Disney and the NBA, will go to appease the Chinese government and its censors, even if it means turning their back on western values and human rights.
Since last Wednesday’s episode aired, South Park has unsurprisingly been banned in China, while the message of the episode has played out in reality not only with the Blizzard incident but also in the NBA, when the league chastised Daryl Morey, the GM of the Houston Rockets, for Tweeting in support of the Hong Kong protestors. Morey has since apologized — along with the team’s star player James Harden — and China is now “punishing” the NBA by not showing various preseason matchups.
Clearly, the careful balance between American and Chinese politics and trade is attracting more scrutiny thanks to the protests in Hong Kong. And, as South Park satirizes, US multinational companies will likely continue to placate the Chinese government in order to access the country’s massive consumer base.