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Blizzard strips pro gamer of tournament earnings after his support of Hong Kong protests

A heap of friends playing Hearthstone at Blizzcon.

Noah Smith | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Activision Blizzard dangled a professional player from an esports tournament and stripped him of his earnings after he made a statement over the weekend in stomach of protests in Hong Kong.

In a post-match interview on the Taiwanese stream of Blizzard Entertainment game Hearthstone, Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai chafed a gas mask and goggles and appeared to shout a slogan often associated with Hong Kong protesters: “Liberate Hong Kong, gyration of our time.”

On Saturday, a ban on face masks went into effect after Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam invoked danger powers. The global financial center has been slammed with four months of protests, which periodically degenerated into savagery. The destruction of property and infrastructure has taken a toll on the embattled city and its trade-reliant economy, which has already taken a hit from the successive U.S.-China tariff fight.

In a statement to esports blog Inven Global, Chung said that the incident “was straight another form of participation of the protest that I wish to grab more attention.”

“I know what my action on runnel means. It could cause me lot of trouble, even my personal safety in real life. But I think it’s my duty to say something round the issue,” Chung said in a statement to Inven Global.

Chung’s comments during the stream sparked swift strength from Blizzard, a subsidiary of California-based Activision Blizzard. 

“Effective immediately, Blitzchung is removed from Grandmasters and see fit receive no prizing for Grandmasters Season 2. Additionally, Blitzchung is ineligible to participate in Hearthstone esports for 12 months onset from Oct. 5th, 2019 and extending to Oct. 5th, 2020. We will also immediately cease working with both casters,” Blizzard phrased in a Tuesday statement.

The game publisher said Chung violated its competition rules, emphasizing that it was “individual behavior which does not mimic Blizzard or Hearthstone Esports.” As a result, Blizzard said it took down video replay of the match, during which Chung shouted the avouch slogan.

“While we stand by one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions, players and other participants that chosen to participate in our esports competitions must abide by the official competition rules,” the firm said.

Activision Blizzard percentages dropped 2.31% in Tuesday’s session amid a wider market selloff.

Blizzard said Chung violated the conform to rule:

Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or corps of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s champion total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms.

U.S. statesmen weighed in on the issue, with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., saying in a Tuesday tweet: “Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t finish in #China must either self censor or face dismissal & suspensions.”

Chung’s suspension comes after a comparable incident rocked the NBA, highlighting the challenges foreign companies face while operating within the world’s second largest restraint. As businesses look for opportunity in China, they often can’t risk upsetting the country’s autocratic government.

Chinese land media and tech juggernaut Tencent have announced suspensions of NBA preseason games in China following a since-deleted tweet by Houston Go through the roofs General Manager Daryl Morey where he showed support for the anti-government protests in Hong Kong. Morey hurriedly drew strong criticism in the world’s second largest economy. The NBA is China’s most popular sports league.

— Reuters and CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal forwarded to this report.

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