BlizzCon 2019 May See Hong Kong Protests

"No gamers should be punished for expressing their views on politics and human rights."

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Hours after Fight for the Future announced its plans to demonstrate at BlizzCon, Blizzard issued a statement regarding its controversial decision. Though it stands by its rationale for punishing the player, it reduced the penalty--halving the ban period and returning his monetary winnings. The player, Blitzchung, has said he isn't sure whether he'll return to Hearthstone once the ban has lifted. Original story follows.

BlizzCon is home to championships, game reveals, fan events, and cosplay contests. This year it may host another spectacle: mass political demonstrations. In the wake of Blizzard's heavily criticized decision to ban a player for making a political statement in a post-match interview, a group of gamers are organizing a protest to take place at the event.

The digital rights group Fight for the Future unveiled its Gamers For Freedom campaign. The campaign site already has tools in place like a scorecard for companies which have publicly pledged not to censor players, and suggestions for similar games for those who want to boycott Blizzard. The group is calling for an umbrella protest to take place at BlizzCon. You can RSVP for the protest through its Facebook page, and join its Discord channel.

"Blizzard, and other companies who are engaging in censorship on behalf of an authoritarian government, are not going to get away with it," said Fight for the Future deputy director Evan Greer, in a statement. "They have no idea what kind of Internet shitstorm they've unleashed. We're going to make an example out of them to make sure that all companies know that throwing human rights and free expression under the bus to make some extra money will not be tolerated."

The controversy began when professional Hearthstone player Ng Wai Chung (aka Blitzchung) expressed support for the Hong Kong protests during a post-match interview. Blizzard banned Chung from competitive events for a year and rescinded his $10,000 in winnings. Since then the response has been fierce, with gamers calling for boycotts and some deleting their accounts. US Senators criticized the move as censorship, some Blizzard employees staged their own protest, and host personalities like Brian Kibler announced they would no longer shoutcast Hearthstone events. Most recently Hearthstone's first ever World Champion, James Kostesich aka "Firebat," called the penalty ridiculous and unreasonable.

Dayton Young, product director at Fight for the Future, outlined a series of steps the campaign believes Blizzard must take. Those include reversing the ban of Chung, restoring his $10,000 in tournament winnings, and repairing its relationship with livestream personalities who have declined to work with Blizzard.

"No gamers should be punished for expressing their views on politics and human rights," Young said. "And no game company should ever ban or penalize players for advocating for their own political freedom. We call on all game developers and publishers to make a public commitment to support the rights of their customers, employees, and fans to freely express their beliefs in America, in Hong Kong, in China, and around the globe."

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