China not a factor in e-sports winner ban: Blizzard

SAN FRANCISCO • Gaming company Blizzard Entertainment has said China had nothing to do with its decision to punish an e-sports champion who voiced support for Hong Kong protesters, but it eased the controversial sentence.

After a week of backlash from players, employees and US politicians, the California-based unit of Activision said on Friday that Mr Ng Wai Chung will be given the prize money he was stripped of and have his ban on competing in tournaments halved to six months.

Mr Ng, who represents the Asia-Pacific region under the name Blitzchung, had just won a crucial match at the Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament when he exclaimed, in Mandarin, "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times" during a livestreamed interview with hosts in Taipei.

"The specific views expressed by Blitzchung were not a factor in the decision we made," Blizzard president J. Allen Brack said in an online post to the gaming community.

"I want to be clear: Our relationships in China had no influence on our decision."

Meanwhile, the National Basketball Association in the US has cancelled media sessions for the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets' trip to China, so players would not have to discuss the fallout between the league and China. The teams played in Shanghai last Thursday before leaving for Shenzhen for a rematch yesterday.

The tensions are in response to a tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey last weekend in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 13, 2019, with the headline 'China not a factor in e-sports winner ban: Blizzard'. Print Edition | Subscribe