Blizzard ban pro Hearthstone player over support of Hong Kong protests

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Blizzard Entertainment has banned a professional Hearthstone player who expressed support for protestors in Hong Kong during a live broadcast following the recent Asia-Pacific Grandmasters tournament in which the top pro players from the region participate - and rescinded the money he won in the competition. It's the latest example of how a popular sport has been dragged into tensions over the months-long political unrest.

Blizzard issued a statement, saying: "Grandmasters is the highest tier of Hearthstone e-sports and we take tournament rule violations very seriously". But gaming news site Inven Global posted the offending portion to Twitter. "My call on stream was just another form of participation of the protest that I wish to grab more attention", he said.

"While we stand by one's right to express individual thoughts and opinions, players and other participants that elect to participate in our esports competitions must abide by the official competition rules", the company said in the statement.

The collectible card game's developers, Blizzard, determined the player violated a competition rule.

Chung spoke to the official Taiwanese Hearthstone organization wearing a gas mask in protest after his victory against South Korea's Jang "DawN" Hyun Jae.

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He added: "It could cause me a lot of trouble, even my personal safety in real life".

"After an investigation, we are taking the necessary actions to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future", Blizzard said in a statement. Blizzard has also removed Blitzchung from the Hearthstone Grandmasters circuit and stripped him of all earnings from Grandmasters Season 2. Protests initially focused on legislation that would allow extraditions from Hong Kong to the mainland, but protestors' demands have broadened over time. The face mask is especially politically charged at the moment thanks to a unilateral decision in the last week by Hong Kong's chief executive Carry Lam this week to ban them.

Parker and Stone's comment referred to yet another Hong Kong-related controversy, which surrounds Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets' general manager.

With the Hong Kong protests going into their fifth month and a growing concern that China may send in troops to the semi-autonomous city to silence the youthful protest in support of democracy, the issue has become both heightened and more sensitive, especially to businesses fearful of upsetting the Chinese authorities. Punishing Blizzard for its behavior could help send a signal to other companies that acting as agents of the Chinese state carries a cost and that they need to think carefully before throwing Hong Kong under the bus. Morey has apologized for the tweet, which the National Basketball Association called "regrettable".

Blitzchung told IGN that he doesn't regret what he said during the interview.

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