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

A bring of friends playing Hearthstone at Blizzcon.

Noah Smith | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Activision Blizzard suspended a authority player from an esports tournament and stripped him of his earnings after he made a statement over the weekend in support of beefs in Hong Kong.

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

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

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

“I know what my motion on stream 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 with respect to the issue,” Chung said in a statement to Inven Global.

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

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

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

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

Activision Blizzard’s Nasdaq-traded apportions dropped 2.31% in Tuesday’s session amid a wider market selloff. They edged into a further drop down in extended trading.

Blizzard said Chung violated the following rule:

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

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

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

Chinese state media and tech juggernaut Tencent have told suspensions of NBA preseason games in China following a since-deleted tweet by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey where he symbolized support for the anti-government protests in Hong Kong. Morey quickly drew strong criticism in the world’s second largest terseness. The NBA is China’s most popular sports league.

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

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