October 8, 2019 Blizzard has removed Blitzchung from Grandmasters, taken away his prize money, and banned him from competing for the next year.
A Hearthstone player from Hong Kong has been banned from competing by Blizzard after he called for the liberation of his country in a live post-match interview.
As was first reported by Inven Global, Ng “blitzchung” Wai Chung appeared for his post-match interview wearing a gas mask – symbolic of the gas masks worn by many of the protesters on the ground in Hong Kong – and shouted “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!”
The incident happened live on Blizzard’s Taiwanese Twitch channel and all clips of the interview have been removed, as well as the full stream of that day’s action. But after reviewing the footage, Blizzard has confirmed that action has been taken against the player and the casters, following a breach of Section 6.1 of the Hearthstone Official Competition Rules, which forbids bringing Blizzard into “public disrepute” or “offend[ing] a portion or group of the public.”
In a statement Blizzard says: “During the Asia-Pacific Grandmasters broadcast over the weekend there was a competition rule violation during a post-match interview, involving Blitzchung and two casters, which resulted in the removal of the match VOD replay.
“Grandmasters is the highest tier of Hearthstone Esports and we take tournament rule violations very seriously. 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.
“We’d like to re-emphasize tournament and player conduct within the Hearthstone esports community from both players and talent. While we stand by one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions, players and other participants that elect to participate in our esports competitions must abide by the official competition rules.”
The publisher has taken flak for ending its working relationship with the two casters, who appeared to hide behind their desk when Blitzchung delivered his message, but according to one Twitter user, who was present at the event, they actually encouraged him to say it in Mandarin.
Clarification: the casters requested/encouraged Blitzchung to say what he said in Mandarin (in case you didn’t understand the clip). They said “Say the eight words, then we’ll end the interview immediately.” Then, they hid under the desk.
— Chua Zhihong (@czhihong) October 8, 2019
Blitzchung provided Inven Global with a statement following its initial report of the incident, defending voicing his opinion but recognising it could have severe repercussions.
“As you know there are serious protests in my country now,” he says. “My call on stream was just another form of participation of the protest that I wish to grab more attention. I put so much effort in that social movement in the past few months, that I sometimes couldn’t focus on preparing my Grandmaster match. I know what my action on stream means. It could cause me a lot of trouble, even my personal safety in real life. But I think it’s my duty to say something about the issue.”
— 🎃 Inven Global 🎃 (@InvenGlobal) October 6, 2019
Hong Kong has seen countless demonstrations over the last few months which began in protest of the government’s decision to introduce a new extradition bill.
Blitzchung was a member of the Hong Kong national Hearthstone team that competed at the 2018 Global Games, in which they placed joint 5th with Bulgaria. To show their solidarity with Blitzchung, some of the Hearthstone community have uninstalled Battle.net.