Blizzard has suspended a professional Hearthstone player from the game’s Grandmasters competition and has rescinded the player’s prize money along with an additional ban. Pro player Ng "blitzchung" Wai Chung appeared during a post-match interview and made comments in support of the liberation of Hong Kong, though the video showing Chung making those comments was soon removed from official channels. Blizzard responded to the situation on Tuesday and said the player violated its competition rules and will be banned from esports events for the next 12 months.
Inven Global shared the video below on October 6th that showed Chung conducting the post-game interview. Chung wore a facemask during his interview, a decision which IGN pointed out was a reference to China’s bans on Hong Kong protestors wearing face masks to conceal their identities. Chung made comments calling for a liberation of Hong Kong while the casters ducked down behind their desk.
Following this interview that was later removed, Blizzard issued a statement on Tuesday condemning Chung’s actions and citing the rule it said the pro player violated. The rule in question for Hearthstone’s competitive scene says if Blizzard decides a player’s actions bring the player into “public disrepute, offend people, or damage Blizzard’s image, they can remove the player from the Grandmasters competition and take away all their prize money. That’s exactly what Blizzard has decided to do in this situation.
“Effective immediately, Blitzchung is removed from Grandmasters and will receive no prizing for Grandmasters Season 2,” Blizzard’s statement said. “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.”
Speaking to IGN, Chung said the decision from Blizzard was expected, but he still feels it’s unfair. He added that he doesn’t regret what was said.
The Hearthstone situation follows an eventful few days when it comes to China’s relations to companies and individuals within those organizations who have criticized the country or voiced support for Hong Kong. A standoff ensued between the NBA and China due to a tweet from Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, and South Park was banned in the country following the release of an episode called “Band in China” that addressed situations exactly like the ones going on right now.
Blizzard also elected to disable the comments on the news article announcing its decision, an occurrence not seen in previous announcements.