Gaming giant Blizzard booted a professional gamer from one of its tournaments and took away his prize money after the player expressed support for pro-democracy protests happening in Hong Kong.
“Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!” said Chung Ng Wai ― or “Blitzchung,” as he’s known in the community ― during a post-game interview on Saturday. Blitzchung had been competing in the online card game Hearthstone’s Asia-Pacific Grandmasters when he made the comment.
On Tuesday, Blizzard suspended Blitzchung for a year and said he had forfeited approximately $10,000 in prize money won in the tournament up to that point, CBS News reported.
Blizzard, the creator of such wildly successful games as World of Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo, said in its statement that Blitzchung violated a competition rule against engaging in an act that “brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image.”
“After an investigation, we are taking the necessary actions to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future,” the company said.
The two individuals who interviewed Blitzchung on the broadcast were also fired, even though their actions ― they hid their faces ― suggested they were not aware of the gamer’s planned protest. Blizzard did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.
Hong Kong has been rocked for months as thousands of citizens have repeatedly flooded the streets in anti-government protests. What started as demonstrations against a proposed law on extradition to mainland China have widened into a pro-democracy movement against the Chinese government and its efforts to limit Hong Kong’s autonomy. Clashes between protesters and authorities have grown increasingly violent as the demonstrations have intensified, with a viral video from last week showing a Hong Kong police officer shooting a teenage protester in the chest.
The Chinese government recently banned face coverings on protesters. In an apparent reference to that, Blitzchung can be seen in the interview wearing a mask and a pair of goggles.
As CBS noted, Blizzard, a California-based company, is partly owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent.
Public criticism of the company’s decision has been swift, and the official Blizzard subreddit closed following Blitzchung’s suspension, Kotaku reported. It’s not immediately clear if that closure was in response to the suspension.
Reddit users upset with Blizzard’s decision have discussed boycotting its games. There’s also online talk of protesting at BlizzCon, the company’s official fan expo, which is set to kick off next month.