Blitzchung Removed from Grandmasters over a Controversial Hong Kong Interview and Banned from Competing for a Year, Casters Also Fired

Last Sunday, during the Grandmasters winners interview on the Taiwanese HS channel, Hearthstone player Chung Ng Wai (AKA Blitzchung) was wearing a mask and called for the liberation of Hong Kong, which turned into one of the most controversial clips of the last months. While it was quickly removed from official VoDs, you can still watch it online (see the Tweet below). While Blitzchung (who’s from Hong Kong) was backed up by majority of the players (expect Chinese, for obvious reasons), it was quite clear that he will have to face some repercussions. However, no one has expected them to be so harsh.

As a result of his actions, Blitzchung got removed from Grandmasters and banned from competing in any official Hearthstone tournament for an entire year. He will NOT receive any prizes for the Season 2 of Grandmasters, even though the action was done during the final week. On top of that, the two casters that conducted this interview got fired immediately. To add a little more context, they did encourage Blitzchung to say what he wanted to say and did not stop him or cut the interview, and then cowered behind a desk.

According to Blizzard, Blitzchung has violated the following Official Competition Rule:

Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms. 

Which is sort of a blanket rule, since ultimately it’s up to Blizzard to decide whether things you’ve said damaged their image and so on.

A big part of the Hearthstone community (except Chinese, obviously) is upset with the decision. According to many players, Blizzard is catering too much to China, and it’s not the first time. For example, just three months ago, artwork on multiple Hearthstone cards was changed – we often heard comments that it was a “Chinese censorship” (which Blizzard denied). As for the current ban, we’re also against the decision and hope that it will get revoked.

Creators of a TCG “Gods Unchained” have also decided to stand up for Blitzchung (as well as freedom of speech) and to pay for all of his lost winnings. Whether it’s simply a PR move or not, we’re happy that he won’t leave with nothing.

You can find the official statement below.

During the Asia-Pacific Grandmasters broadcast over the weekend there was a competition rule violation during a post-match interview, involving Blitzchung and two casters, which resulted in the removal of the match VOD replay.

Upon further review we have found the action has violated the 2019 Hearthstone Grandmasters Official Competition Rules section 6.1 (o) and is individual behavior which does not represent Blizzard or Hearthstone Esports. 6.1 (o) is found below.

2019 HEARTHSTONE® GRANDMASTERS OFFICIAL COMPETITION RULES v1.4   p.12, Section 6.1 (o)

Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms. 

Grandmasters is the highest tier of Hearthstone Esports and we take tournament rule violations very seriously. After an investigation, we are taking the necessary actions to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

Effective immediately, Blitzchung is removed from Grandmasters and will receive no prizing for Grandmasters Season 2. Additionally, Blitzchung is ineligible to participate in Hearthstone esports for 12 months beginning from Oct. 5th, 2019 and extending to Oct. 5th, 2020. We will also immediately cease working with both casters.

We’d like to re-emphasize tournament and player conduct within the Hearthstone esports community from both players and talent. While we stand by one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions, players and other participants that elect to participate in our esports competitions must abide by the official competition rules.

Stonekeep

A Hearthstone player and writer from Poland, Stonekeep has been in a love-hate relationship with Hearthstone since Closed Beta. Over that time, he has achieved many high Legend climbs and infinite Arena runs. He's the current admin of Hearthstone Top Decks.

Check out Stonekeep on Twitter!

Leave a Reply

38 Comments

  1. Vincent
    October 11, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    I’ve got banned for a 1000 years for posting on the hearthstone forums asking Blizzard to stand up for freedom of speech. I’ve been playing Blizzard games and giving them my money for at least 15(!) years. I’m speechless really. I hope they come to their senses soon.

    “Your account is unable to post or reply until Oct 11, 3019 9:54 pm.”
    Yeah that’s right… 3019(!).

  2. Maximum
    October 11, 2019 at 3:01 am

    I think this has to go down as one of the biggest ordeals in hearthstone history!!!

  3. Persian
    October 10, 2019 at 9:08 am

    Hi all from Ukraine! Hopefully other pro players and casters will do the same during next translations. Blizz can’t ban / fire everyone. Just deleted HS and app, will not playing it until justice is restored.

  4. Maximum
    October 9, 2019 at 9:59 pm

    I agree that blizzard needed to do something but Blitzchung’s punishment is over the top to say the least!

    • DukeStarswisher
      October 10, 2019 at 7:12 am

      It benefits no one to be a Kibler parrot. The punishment was not over the top. They had every right to do what they did per the contract. Anything less and they jeopardize business with China.

      Its not up to Blitzchung to determine whether Blizzard will take a HUGE political stance. They lose business with Chinese consumers, WE and blizzard employees will feel the repercussions.

      The true enemy here is the oppressive Chinese government. Not Blizzard.

  5. Vincent
    October 9, 2019 at 11:13 am

    Doing business in a country where human rights are violated shines on the company as well. Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of the modern western society. Even though the event might not be the place for politics, the course of action does not match with the values that I think a company founded in the USA should stand for. As someone who lives in europe and thus having fully freedom of speech and movement, I support anyone in his fight for freedom. I’m taking a time out from hearthstone.

    • Spidermannerdlikeme
      October 9, 2019 at 5:54 pm

      Taking a time out is fine but people quitting the game is stupid, and yeah you’re right about the US it’s an incredible country with great values #americanpatriot????????????????????????????????????????

    • DukeStarswisher
      October 10, 2019 at 7:16 am

      If you’re f2p, they won’t miss you. It’s all about money. And THAT is what US companies stand for.

    • Persian
      October 10, 2019 at 9:31 am

      Couldn’t agree more

  6. Spidermannerdlikeme
    October 8, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    Ninjaaj screwed up, if he was talking about Biden or Trump and he got suspended because of the rules no one would care, he HAD to mention Hong Kong and put Blizzard in an awkward position. Blizzard is in the wrong, but boycotting shouldn’t be done. I hope too many people won’t leave because the past 2 years of my life have been Hearthstone, its such a great game. And all this news had to come out during Doom in the Tomb, an event that actually had somethings that the community requested (bringing back old legendaries, giving us a 1000 reward win, cosmetics, and dungeon run tavern brawls) I’ve decided not to play today, but after that I’m gonna keep playing, hopefully there will still be more. Watching Kripp’s and Kibler’s streams was sickening to look at the chat. What sickens me more is TFT, Clash Royale, and Artifact mooching off of this controversy to get people to play their games as a replacement to Hearthstone.

    • Spidermannerdlikeme
      October 8, 2019 at 10:14 pm

      Update: I hear political leaders who have no info on the rules of hearthstone’s grandmasters or its importance in culture want it banned, this is so disgusting to correct something you have no relational reference point in the first place.

  7. Raymoney
    October 8, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Remind me that if I ever win anything with this game and get interviewed I will wear a mask and proudly speak out my support for the people of Hong Kong who fight for the rights they should have.

    I am with Blizzchung may he return and get a card named after him…!!

    ????????

  8. Axiotes
    October 8, 2019 at 9:42 am

    Why can’t video games be political? Video games are a way (really, one of the only ways) to reach and unite people from all parts of the world, to share ideas and get messages across. I know a lot of people want to see them as pure escapism but nothing in life is truly apolitical–everything we do contains and expresses values that we live by and use to guide our lives together. So the question is, will you stand on the side of authoritarianism and oppression, or individual freedom and human dignity? Looks like the Blizzard management made their choice.

  9. DukeStarswisher
    October 8, 2019 at 7:34 am

    Blizzard, as per the contract the contestant signed, had every right to suspend and withdraw prize money. The repercussions were pretty clearly stated in the contract so none of this should be a surprise to anyone. Everyone can hate Blizzard all they want, but the contract is there to protect their money-making.

    But Blitzchung is now an icon. He stood up against injustice on a public platform knowing that there would be serious repercussions. That is the best thing a person can do at this moment in China’s history.

  10. Jro2239
    October 8, 2019 at 7:34 am

    So since Blizz has bend the knee to China, where does the ingame tournament mode stay?

  11. Rolioli
    October 8, 2019 at 7:17 am

    Respect

  12. Thanatos
    October 8, 2019 at 5:51 am

    Blizzard is totally right.

    Hearthstone Grandmasters, or any gaming competition is not the place for political manifestation.

    If he wants a free Hong Kong, he should protest on the streets…

    • Stonekeep - Site Admin
      October 8, 2019 at 6:01 am

      Like I’ve said below, I agree that there should be some kind of “punishment” (even though I honestly thought that he will end up with just a warning), because they don’t want everyone to start involving politics into interviews – that’s not the right place to do it. We’re clear here.

      But come on, removing him from Grandmasters, taking away his winnings AND banning him for a year? And then firing both of the casters for simply letting him say a few words? That is a much bigger political manifestation than the interview itself. And a terrible one on top of that.

      • Tharid
        October 8, 2019 at 7:20 am

        Streisand effect in full effect, heh. At least for us it’s looking exactly like that.

        What so, so, SO many westerners don’t see are the eastern reactions. This may look like a community backlash, but a majority of the Chinese market couldn’t care less. And that is the reason why Blizzard did act this way, swift and in full force, so that everything goes on as planned.

      • DukeStarswisher
        October 8, 2019 at 7:38 am

        I think the only unfair thing there is firing the casters. Unless it clearly states in their job description/contract to stop political commentary, I think that Blizzard is out of line on that call.

        • Stonekeep - Site Admin
          October 8, 2019 at 8:57 am

          I think that no one is saying that the punishment is “unfair” in that sense – it’s their right to do it and no one questions that part.

          It’s just that you can work within the rules and still make decisions that will be perceived as unjust and will make you an asshole.

          And I think that casters aren’t mentioned enough in this. I think that it was a shitty move. What’s even worse is that in the official Chinese statement they mention that those casters will never be hired again to cast any tournament. Great.

      • Spidermannerdlikeme
        October 8, 2019 at 10:16 pm

        Stonekeep do you feel like we should stop playing the game? If you’d read my earlier comment I don’t feel like this pressure is Blizzards entire doing

        • Stonekeep - Site Admin
          October 9, 2019 at 3:53 am

          While I’m in no position to tell anyone what to do, I don’t think that anyone should feel pressured to quit because of the incident. Blizzard has made a terrible decision and it’s a PR nightmare now, but if it’s the game you enjoy, I don’t see why you should stop playing it.

          The thing that people forget is that every company is doing terrible things. Companies that produce the things you eat, the things you watch, the things you wear, the smartphone you’re possibly browsing the site from now etc. – and yet you still buy their stuff. Because in this day and age, it’s nearly impossible to distance yourself from every poor corporate decision, you would have to start living in a cave.

          Most of the people who boycott the game and stopped playing weren’t that into it (at least not anymore) and were looking for a reason to quit. Which is still great, of course, if that’s how they want to tackle this case.

          The only thing I can say is to not forget about the incident, keep talking about it. Don’t just let it slide. Because that’s what they were hoping for – to do a quick cover up and for people to forget in a few days. If it won’t work, maybe they will have to revise their stance.

          • Spidermannerdlikeme
            October 9, 2019 at 5:50 pm

            Really cool talking to you, I admire that you’re still playing and supporting the site but are still willing to speak out against Blizzard

          • Spidermannerdlikeme
            October 9, 2019 at 5:51 pm

            I’m gonna keep playing but I’m gonna look at it differently, and yeah you’re right companies do this al the time, again really admire you and cool talking with you

    • JoeBar
      October 8, 2019 at 6:28 am

      Protesting on the street make so much resounding !

      At least he was able to deliver a message at this time.

      So you totally agree all consequent Blizzard decisions to this, what a great man we have here !

      • Thanatos
        October 8, 2019 at 7:11 am

        Blizzard must not get involved in political manifestation, it has severe consequences for a tech company.

        If Blizzard gives the impression that they support Hong Kong’s claim, China could simply ban them from their territory. Blizzard’s stocks would drop and it could lead to financial issues.

        So, again, HS Grandmasters is not the place for this and Blizzard must respond strongly.

  13. JoeBar
    October 8, 2019 at 5:23 am

    You can see the power of China, being able to censor everywhere in the world.

    See the example of the owner of “Houston Rockets” CEO that removed his support to Hong-Kong protesters, after China threatened of retiring sponsors to his team …

    Money before human rights all over the world …

    • Poison
      October 8, 2019 at 5:50 am

      China has grown so much in the last 10 years just as it was prognosed. The Government really can do whatever they want as they have so much to back it up with. Blizzard can’t afford damaging their relationship with china obviously but taking such harsh and unfair actions is too much. This is the tipping point…

  14. Stonekeep - Site Admin
    October 8, 2019 at 4:46 am

    This is not an official statement from HSTD, just my personal opinion:

    This is complete and utter bullshit. I absolutely hate this decision. I agree that we should not mix gaming and politics. Deleting the interview from official VoDs? Understandable. I wouldn’t even mind a slap on the wrists for Blitzchung for “breaking the rules”. But they just ruined lives of three people over nothing. Or wait, let me rephrase it – over simply manifesting that they want freedom.

    It’s plain as day that it was all because of pressure from China. But Blizzard is not a Chinese company. So for whoever made that decision, it was a choice between money and standing up for human rights. Guess what won today.

    • Joopiter
      October 8, 2019 at 4:56 am

      Guess what wins everytime…

      • HuntingFor90
        October 8, 2019 at 8:57 am

        Lol seriously it sounds like Stonekeep forgot that ActiBlizz is a bunch of money-hungry shills. They will choose money over human rights any day of the week. Shareholders don’t care about human rights they care about fat wallets

        • CD001
          October 9, 2019 at 4:50 am

          Nobody invests in shares to lose money and since Activision/Blizzard have issued shares, they are legally obliged to do what’s in the best interests of those shareholders – a good chunk of which are financial institutions (so that’s probably people’s pensions amongst other things – it’s never quite as black and white as it seems).

          Activision/Blizzard literally have to do what’s best for their shareholders – so they have to suck up to China unless there are more people prepared to boycott their games than there are Chinese consumers (i.e. alienating their non-Chinese consumer-base would need to have a bigger hit on their share price and being banned in China) – and, realistically, I don’t see it.

    • DukeStarswisher
      October 8, 2019 at 7:43 am

      This isn’t just about hearthstone. If China had a tiny notion that Blizzard had a political agenda they would ban all of their content from the region, which would ruin Blizzard. And then guess what? We don’t have the content (or a game in the worst case scenario) for this site we all love.

      Blizzard made the right call. Blitzchung also made the right call. China is not making the right call.

      • Stonekeep - Site Admin
        October 8, 2019 at 8:52 am

        Of course, China is to blame first and foremost. But what crazy world are we living in when they can dictate their terms to any company around the world and they will cave in? I hate using that terms, but it really is a slippery slope.

        Like I’ve said, I did expect some sort of punishment, but not that much. There’s a lot of space between standing against China + removing themselves from that market and completely following what China ordered them to do (which is clearly the case here). Blizzard games like WoW or HS are really big in China, so it’s not like they don’t have at least some leverage.

        • DukeStarswisher
          October 8, 2019 at 10:16 am

          They can cave in because I don’t think anyone realizes how big China has become. They are a direct economic competitor to the U.S. and it has become in even more so in the last few years. You should not take a political stance against a country that is completely run by the government against the will of the people. Making that stance doesn’t help anyone, because the chinese government doesn’t lose anything from just noping Blizzard out of the country, but consumers (who Blizzard actually cares about) will feel the loss.

          Think of China as two factions right now: government and consumer. Blizzard cares about Chinese consumers, but the government essentially dictates whether they have access to said consumers. Blizzard gains nor offers anything to the political movement happening there by allowing a player to speak up against the government. It is best for us, and Blizzard, to fight the Chinese government (in fiscal fashion most importantly!) in whatever way we can so that they cave to the populace’s demands.

    • Spidermannerdlikeme
      October 9, 2019 at 7:25 pm

      Love you Stonekeep!