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Blizzard Releases Official Statement on Suspended Hong Kong Hearthstone Player

Jan 11, 2019
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In a lengthy statement, Blizzard President J. Allen Brack stated "our relationships in China had no influence on our decision."

It has been a time of reckoning for a number of American corporations, as their ties to China have been under scrutiny by their fans and followers. The ripple effects of the protests in Hong Kong finally reached the competitive gaming sphere when Hong Kong Hearthstone player Ng “blitzchung” Wai Chung made a political statement in support of Hong Kong in a livestream, receiving a year-long ban from competitive Hearthstone. Days later, late on a Friday night, publisher Blizzard Entertainment would finally make a statement.

The letter on Blizzard’s website was credited to President of Blizzard Entertainment J. Allen Brack, with Brack spending a chunk of the statement outlining what he believed to be Blizzard’s ideals in the gaming and competitive spaces.
At Blizzard, our vision is “to bring the world together through epic entertainment.” And we have core values that apply here: Think Globally; Lead Responsibly; and importantly, Every Voice Matters, encouraging everybody to share their point of view. The actions that we took over the weekend are causing people to question if we are still committed to these values. We absolutely are and I will explain.
In fleshing out the “Every Voice Matters” point, Brack goes on to explain that the post-game interviews are meant to convey “excitement” and “an opportunity for competitors to share how they feel.” According to Brack, blitzchung’s declaration of support for Hong Kong liberation was a violation of the rules, saying ” the official broadcast needs to be about the tournament and to be a place where all are welcome. In support of that, we want to keep the official channels focused on the game.” Evidently, “sharing how they feel” can’t extend to anything outside of Hearthstone.

The main pressure point from the statement from readers was the following: “The specific views expressed by blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made. I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision.” Several replies to Blizzard’s tweet sharing the statement expressed incredulity towards the last sentence in particular. Brack attempts to clarify:
“We have these rules to keep the focus on the game and on the tournament to the benefit of a global audience, and that was the only consideration in the actions we took. If this had been the opposing viewpoint delivered in the same divisive and deliberate way, we would have felt and acted the same.
The current situation in Hong Kong is indeed complex, but the wording from the statement implies that stated support for human rights is “divisive.” Even with Brack’s framing, such doubt towards Blizzard can be justified after translated official posts from the Hearthstone page on Chinese social media website Weibo condemned blitzchung—one particular post spoke of “respect[ing] and defend[ing] the pride” of China while referring to the player’s suspension.
Continuing the statement, Brack concedes that the company’s “process wasn’t adequate, and we reacted too quickly.” As such, Blizzard used the statement to announce that the year-long suspension for blitzchung will be reduced to only six months. Breck ends by emphasizing the importance of an inclusive and safe community, which in their view is by ensuring that the company’s official broadcasts “remain focused on the game and are not a platform for divisive social or political views.”
This portion of the statement echoes one from Riot Games, the League of Legends developer that is also a subsidiary of Chinese tech behemoth Tencent.
In contrast, Fortnite studio Epic Games, a company that Tencent also has a minority stake in, stated that the company “supports the rights of Fortnite players and creators to speak about politics and human rights.” Blizzard has also dealt with protests internally, with some employees participating in a walkout (per The Daily Beast) over the company’s decision. A movement to boycott Blizzard and its games has been represented by the #boycottblizzard hashtag, and a number of fan artists have moved to utilize Overwatch character Mei as a symbol for the Hong Kong protests in an attempt to get the hero-based shooter banned from China.With the effects of the Hong Kong protests also reaching organizations such as the NBA, the blitzchung situation has even reached high-profile American politicians, with Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and Republican Senator Marco Rubio both putting out tweets that condemned Blizzard.How Blizzard will continue to enforce their stated policies, what constitutes as “divisive social or political views,” and how competitive players will respond is yet to be seen. With seemingly unanimous dissent against Blizzard even reaching mainstream news, this is undoubtedly not the last we’ll hear from this story.


 

Hendrick's

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Jan 7, 2014
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I don't see the controversy here. You can't have people shouting out political statements during tournaments, so Blizzard was right to ban this guy. I also agree that the punishment was too harsh and I'm glad they reduced it
 
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Ulysses 31

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I don't see the controversy here. You can't have people shouting out political statements during tournaments, so Blizzard was right to ban this guy. I also agree that the punishment was too harsh and I'm glad they reduced it
Then you missed that Blizzard did nothing when LGBT/pride flags were shown and that they didn't punish people mentioning HK in US tournaments. They don't enforce the rules equally in every region.
 

Hendrick's

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Then you missed that Blizzard did nothing when LGBT/pride flags were shown and that they didn't punish people mentioning HK in US tournaments. They don't enforce the rules equally in every region.
Flags and mentioning things is not the same as going off script and shouting politically charged statements. Also, I think the venue does need to be considered.
 

Ulysses 31

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Flags and mentioning things is not the same as going off script and shouting politically charged statements. Also, I think the venue does need to be considered.
They held up a sign saying to boycot Blizz and free HK, they didn't get punished.
 
Dec 14, 2008
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They held up a sign saying to boycot Blizz and free HK, they didn't get punished.
Blizzard realized that if they punished Americans on American soil they would probably soon be facing much much worse than what they have already faced when punishing a HK national in Taiwan, a small island which China has successfully pressured most nations to stop recognizing the existence of at all.
 

Kittehkraken

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Jan 14, 2017
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So this would of been the response if he supported China instead of Hong Kong?



Sure, sure.

blitzchung offended China's tiny little ego and got dumpsted for it. Blizzard is now failing at trying to walk back going along with China having an absolute shit fit over what happened.

This isn't about someone saying something political when they shouldn't have, its about someone from Hong Kong standing up to China.
 

LegendOfKage

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So are Tracer and Soldier 76 gay in China? My guess is no. All about human rights and diversity, until it's affecting their bottom line.

That's also likely why so many gay characters found in mainstream blockbuster video games are not depicted as gay in the game itself. Much easier to explain than "why did you cut or change this cutscene for several international markets?"
 
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Kittehkraken

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So are Tracer and Soldier 76 gay in China? My guess is no. All about human rights and diversity, until it's affecting their bottom line.

That's also likely why so many gay characters found in mainstream blockbuster video games are not depicted as gay in the game itself. Much easier to explain than "why did you cut change this cutscene for several international markets?"

Nope.

They held up a sign saying to boycot Blizz and free HK, they didn't get punished.

They very quickly cut away from something that apparently isn't against any rules on a platform that supposedly supports free speech. :messenger_dizzy:
 
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Yumi

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May 18, 2019
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The shit going on in Hong Kong is frightening. Its hard to not get upset about. I understand both sides, but its hard to agree with Blizzard. Rules are rules, but the way people are being treated over there is crime against humanity. He put Blizzard in a tough position, and they had to play a hand. It truly shows the separation between people and business.
 

Hudo

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Jul 26, 2018
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I wonder how many people will try to cosplay as Winnie-the-pooh at this year's Blizzcon (and won't get in or thrown out, obviously...).
 
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rofif

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Maybe this will change how Blizzard behaves in the future a bit... but it will only be on the outside publicly.
Business is business and they will not say fuck to china because there is too much money at stake and the goal of company is to make money. Money over rights of people obviously and it's naive to think they should oppose china just for the sake of being good and lawful.
And I don't think none of this will affect the grand situation in China in any way. Politicians there probably do not care what other countries... or especially gamers from other countries say
 
Oct 16, 2017
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Maybe this will change how Blizzard behaves in the future a bit... but it will only be on the outside publicly.
Business is business and they will not say fuck to china because there is too much money at stake and the goal of company is to make money. Money over rights of people obviously and it's naive to think they should oppose china just for the sake of being good and lawful.
And I don't think none of this will affect the grand situation in China in any way. Politicians there probably do not care what other countries... or especially gamers from other countries say
The only real way to run a game company, is to literally have one set of games for China and an entirely different set for the rest of the planet.

Steam is basically isolated from China Steam. It is not ideal but the only real compromise. China can abuse its rights to censor within its borders, but it should stay out of what the rest of the planet is doing. This means of course, that Chinese tournaments would not be able to participate in global competitions, but that is the price you pay for being Chinese.

Chinese gamers should no longer be allowed to compete globally, and broadcasts of international tournaments should not be shown in China. I say Ideally, but in some ways money might be lost. But getting banned in China means no money from them at all.
 
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Lupin3

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Next week Blizzard will introduce a $9.99 unban option. Or a best value 5-pack for $39.99.
 
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petran79

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Fortunately they don't have to manage a soccer match between France and Turkey
 

petran79

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Turkish players did a military salute when they scored and won after their win against Albania in soccer. Uefa said only that they'll consider the issue. A Turkish gymnast did the same during the Turkish national anthem after winning gold medal in rings.
Now they play in France and 30000 Turks are expected to enter the stadium. Both inside the match and between fans, tensions are expected and French players could treat them roughly. Penalty and red cards have increased chances to happen for the bookmakers.
This is a more serious example when politics and sports are mixed.
 
Aug 21, 2018
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The shit going on in Hong Kong is frightening. Its hard to not get upset about. I understand both sides, but its hard to agree with Blizzard. Rules are rules, but the way people are being treated over there is crime against humanity. He put Blizzard in a tough position, and they had to play a hand. It truly shows the separation between people and business.
But that don't explain why they fired the caster too.