AOC, other politicians condemn Blizzard's actions over HK protest

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was one of five politicians who signed a letter to Activision Blizzard deriding the company’s decision to ban Ng Wai “blitzchung” Chung from competitive Hearthstone play.

blitzchung was originally banned from competitive play for one year and had his prize money rescinded after comments he made in a post-game interview regarding ongoing pro-democratic protests in Hong Kong. The ban was later shortened and the player’s prize money was returned, but that has done little to quiet the controversy around the decision.

The congresswoman joined senators Marco Rubio and Ron Wyden, as well as fellow congress members Tom Malinowski and Mike Gallagher, to voice their concerns and urge Blizzard to reverse their decision.

“As China amplifies its campaign of intimidation, you and your company must decide whether to look beyond the bottom line and promote American values -- like freedom of speech and thought -- or to give in to Beijing’s demands in order to preserve market access,” the letter reads.

“Because your company is such a pillar of the gaming industry, your disappointing decision could have a chilling effect on gamers who seek to use their platform to promote human rights and basic freedoms.”

The letter is just one part of the backlash Blizzard has received regarding this decision.

Several members of the gaming and esports community have condemned their decision. 

Nathan “Admirable” Zamora announced he was leaving the Hearthstone broadcast booth for Grandmasters, The Masters Tour, and BlizzCon. Zamora cited Blizzard’s core values and how the decision to suspend blitzchung was in direct conflict with the “every voice matters” mantra Blizzard has used in the past.

Blizzard employees have staged walkouts, and Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney released a statement that no Fortnite player would ever be suspended for political speech.

Many companies with business ties to China, including the NBA, have released statements on their policy in regards to political speech as the situation in Hong Kong continues to intensify. Now, Ocasio-Cortez, Rubio, Wyden, Malinowski, and Gallagher have added governmental voices to the mix.

Blizzard maintains that the company’s desire is to keep political speech and social issues away from their broadcasts, and that the decision was not tied to the subject matter of Hong Kong and China. This is in spite of Blizzard’s established history of officially supporting social movements like Pride during competitive broadcasts.