By Jackie Chen
Chung Ng Wai, the winner of a major Asian tournament for the online card game Hearthstone called the Asia-Pacific Hearthstone Grandmasters, had his prize money revoked and was banned from tournaments for a year on October 8 after expressing support for the Hong Kong protests during an interview two days prior.
During the interview, Wai wore goggles and a face mask, referencing the clothing many Hong Kong protesters wore during demonstrations. Activision Blizzard, the company who owns Hearthstone and other games like World of Warcraft and Overwatch, claimed it violated tournament rules stating that players shouldn’t offend a part of the public. The two tournament casters who interviewed Wai were also fired for the same reason.
“I think Blizzard wants to take the side of the larger nation,” commented Jinkang Fang, a PLTW sophomore and an immigrant from China. “I don’t think it was the right move though…they’ll be hated by many people worldwide because of this. It’s like giving a student an F for saying a bad word in class, and then expelling them.”
This brings up a lot of issues as U.S. companies try to expand their businesses in other countries like China. The U.S. is one of many countries with freedom of speech, while China restricts it. If a person extends their business to both of these types of countries, it’s near impossible to support the beliefs of both. The choice for a company is to support one country’s values and not the other. In Blizzard’s case, the company chose to support China by restricting freedom of speech for Wai and angering the part of their customer base that believes in freedom of speech.
The protests in Hong Kong have led to other incidents between China and organizations like the NBA. Daryl Morey, manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team, posted a tweet on Twitter supporting Hong Kong on October 4. The Rockets are popular in China for having Chinese star Yao Ming. However, China was not happy with the manager of the team promoting the Hong Kong protests. China threatened to stop all showings of games involving the Rockets within the country, and retracted their sponsorship deals with the team. The NBA quickly apologized for offending the nation, and Morey removed the tweet soon after. However, NBA commissioner Adam Silver further elaborated that they will not apologize for Morey’s expression of his freedom of speech.
“China’s large population makes it a market that’s open to U.S. companies. They have 1 billion people on top of the 400 million the U.S has,” mentioned David White, an ESA history teacher. “It’s very simple. The more people you can draw in, the more money you make.”