PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — U.S. video game giant Activision Blizzard is receiving scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers, including from Oregon’s U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, for continuing to ban players who have voiced support of pro-democratic Hong Kong protesters during official online tournaments.
A bipartisan joint letter was sent Friday to the CEO of Activision Blizzard from lawmakers that included Wyden, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and others calling for the company to reverse its decision to ban players, particularly its ban on Ng Wai Chung, who is also known by his screen name “Blitzchung.” Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) also co-signed the letter.
Chung was a Hong Kong competitor for a game called “Hearthstone” who voiced his support of Hong Kong protests in a post game interview.
“Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!” was the message Chung shouted during a live streaming event facilitated by the game company.
Wyden, a Democrat, slammed the decision to ban Chung, taking to Twitter on Oct. 8 to write, “Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party. No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck.”
Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party. No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck. https://t.co/rJBeXUiwYS— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) October 8, 2019
Activision Blizzard is partly owned by Chinese gaming giant Tencent.
Since that first player ban, three U.S. Hearthstone players were banned after holding a sign during one match that read “Free Hong Kong” and called for a boycott of the company.
KOIN 6 News reached out to one of the American University college students in Washington, D.C., about their decision to hold up the sign. Casey Chambers, a former team captain of American University’s esports team, said it was always his intention to stop playing games by the company in light of the recent controversy.
“It was a unanimous team decision…we all thought it was important to get the message out…when they released the initial ban that was incredibly draconian…it showed that either directly or indirectly they had bowed down to Chinese influence,” he said.
The gaming company initially hesitated banning the U.S. players, as evidenced by the fact that they were matched up with another opponent in the collegiate tournament shortly after they held up the sign. But Activision Blizzard ultimately decided to do a six-month ban from Blizzard game tournaments for all three team members for interfering with the official online broadcast.
The Hong Kong player was originally banned for one year and revoked of prize money, but that punishment was later softened after considerable public backlash that included boycotts of Blizzard games and walkouts of U.S. Blizzard employees.
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