Blitzchung was competing in the Grandmasters season in Asia-Pacific and was set to do an interview following a win. He appeared on the official Hearthstone Taiwan stream in goggles and a mask similar to those worn by protestors in defiance of the government ban issued last week and showed solidarity with his fellow countrymen. "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times," said blizchung as the coaxing commentators sunk beneath their desk and production switched to an ad break following the remarks.
Initially, Blizzard had simply deleted the VOD from the day, but a statement from Blizzard, with comments disabled, followed that declared "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's actions have been widely criticised by the community across the world of esports and beyond.
Less than two months ago, Blizzard filed a lawsuit against China's Sina Games for alleged copyright infringement of its 'Warcraft' games. Now the same company has banned a Hong Kong Hearthstone player for shouting a protest slogan in an interview. https://t.co/1mTAKbNm9H https://t.co/aCJtdWClgr— Mary Hui (@maryhui) October 8, 2019
This comes in the wake of an episode of South Park involving China and highlighting the issues surrounding Chinese censorship issues.
Tencent, the Chinese tech investment juggernaut and world's largest game publisher, have a 5% stake in Blizzard. With total control over Riot Games, a 48.5% stake in Epic Games and additional stakes in Ubisoft, Bluehole and Grinding Gear Games, Tencent has significant looming influence cast over a huge number of esports titles and the wider gaming scene. Many are worried that not only are companies censoring themselves and others for the sake of business but are allowing China as a nation to take part in questionable actions with no fear of financial repercusion or penalty from publishers looking to expand into the Asian market.