A top professional gamer from Hong Kong who was expelled from an international esports tournament after showing support for the city’s protest movement said on Tuesday he has no regrets.
Chung Ng Wai, who represents the Asia-Pacific region under the name Blitzchung, had just won a crucial match at the Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament when he exclaimed in Mandarin “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” during a live-streamed interview with hosts in Taipei.
Hearthstone is a hugely popular online card game in which two opponents take turns to deploy different characters with different abilities to try to defeat each other.
The 21-year-old university student, who was wearing eye goggles and a gas mask – equipment frequently used by protesters in Hong Kong – pulled down his respirator to broadcast his message.
The online stream was cut off mid-interview shortly afterwards and the video has since been taken down.
Chung told AFP he was not surprised at being kicked out of the competition, but said: “I don’t regret saying that stuff. And even now, I don’t regret it at all.”
The Hong Konger said he had been distracted by the sometimes-violent unrest in his home city over the past four months.
“Quite a number of large-scale protests overlapped the competition time,” he said. “Sometimes, I couldn’t focus on the competition.”
The makers of Hearthstone, Blizzard Entertainment, wrote in a statement Chung had broken their rules and said he will not receive any prize money – $10,000 according to Chung – and will be banned from Hearthstone esports for a year.
Those rules say players must not engage in acts that bring themselves into “public disrepute”, offend anybody or damage the developer’s image.
The video game industry last year generated more than $135bn globally – $43.4bn of that in the United States alone.
Chung said his removal from the competition was “a pity” after spending four years in esports.
“I sacrificed time hanging out with my friends and studying because of this competition. Even though it seemed that I had wasted four years of time, I have something more important in my heart – if we lose the movement, Hong Kong will end forever.”
According to Bloomberg, a small stake of Activision Blizzard – the parent company of Blizzard Entertainment and one of America’s biggest gaming companies – is owned by the Chinese holding company Tencent and Ng believes the developer could be bowing to Beijing’s world view by silencing him.
“I didn’t expect my comments would make a huge impact,” he said. “I’m just expressing myself and why should I be afraid of this kind of ‘white terror’? This is my freedom of speech.
“I shouldn’t be scared. I hope my act can inspire other gamers like me, to continue to support the movement in Hong Kong.”
The gamer drew support from the gaming community, some of whom wrote on the Reddit-like forum LIHKG.
“I really can’t think of any reason why the developers in esports would offend youngsters. Good luck to them,” wrote one user in Cantonese.
Another wrote: “I had been supporting the Blizzard Entertainment for nearly 20 years. I bought most of its games. I’m uninstalling all its games. I will not support Blizzard anymore.”
The incident is similar to a controversy in the NBA sparked last week when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey posted a now-deleted comment on Twitter supporting the protesters.