Olivia R. October 15, 2019
ESL CEO Ralf Reichert has informed more than 700 employees that they are forbidden from discussing Hong Kong's ongoing protests.
In a Slack message obtained by Kong Kong Free Press, Reichert declares that ESL is a global company that's active in many countries, something that would make public political statements potentially controversial for the large esports firm.
"We naturally do abstain from political discussions and set the best example by living our values. Therefore, we would like to suggest to not actively engage in the discussion, especially on social media,” Reichert wrote to employees.
The esports company that's most well known for their large Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournaments had announced a partnership with a Chinese streaming service, Huya, in September. The goal was to bring ESL's competitions to Chinese esports fans.
"Our cooperation with Huya, the largest esports media in China, will allow us to bring our global properties and content to China while enabling the best players from China qualifying to the biggest global ESL tournaments. What an exciting prospect," Reichert had said at the time.
Chief executive officer of Huya, Rongjie Dong, called the close partnership an opportunity for his company to "further penetrate into the global esports sector."
It remains unclear if this was part of the reason for ESL's request for silence on the Hong Kong protests, but if so, this business interest would be quite similar to the presumed reasoning behind Blizzard's continued censorship over the political unrest in Hong Kong.
ESL to follow Blizzard's silence on Hong Kong?
Hong Kong Free Press reached out to ESL to find out if it was their concern about their Chinese market that made them come down on free speech. A spokesperson for ESL responded.
“Mr. Reichert’s internal message on Slack was a reminder to ESL employees about the general social media policies that have been in place for many years; that we do not use ESL’s brand or platform for personal political statements, and to show respect for colleagues with views different than our own," ESL said.
The spokesperson did note in an email to HKFP that ESL's employees are allowed to share personal views on private social media accounts.
It's not only ESL that remains on edge over the Hong Kong protests. The gaming community as a whole is in turmoil over Blizzard's reaction to Hearthstone pro player blitzchung's political statement in support of Hong Kong that saw the player suspended from competition. Many gamers are asking for a boycott of Blizzard and its games in response. Protests are currently gearing up for BlizzCon as Blizzard continues to censor other people involved with the company.