Hearthstone pro Chung "blitzchung" Ng Wai caused a stir over the weekend when, during a post-match interview on the official Asia Pacific Hearthstone Grandmasters livestream, he called for Hong Kong's freedom from China. Blitzchung appeared on the stream wearing a gas mask and goggles, similar to masks worn by protesters in Hong Kong (and possibly intended as symbolic defiance of a new law banning the use of face masks), and then, as reported by Inven Global (opens in new tab), removed the mask and shouted, "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!"
Hong Kong has been wracked by protests (opens in new tab) since June following the proposal of a law allowing the extradition of suspect criminals to mainland China for trial. Some worried that the law would undermine the former British colony's judicial independence, established under the "one country, two systems (opens in new tab)" agreement in the 1997 handover to China. The bill was ultimately suspended, but the protests have escalated into demands for greater autonomy and democracy, an inquiry into the police, and full amnesty for all protesters—which in turn has sparked fears of a possible crackdown (opens in new tab) by the Chinese military.
It's obviously an extremely sensitive topic: Daryl Morey, general manager of the NBA's Houston Rockets, was forced to apologize today after a weekend tweet saying, "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong," led to a backlash and boycotts by Chinese companies including Tencent.
The casters on the Hearthstone stream, presumably not wanting to be connected to that kind of trouble, made a point of theatrically hiding behind their desk; shortly after that, according to the Inven Global report, the stream cut to commercial. A clip of the video posted to Reddit (opens in new tab) was quickly deleted, but was preserved elsewhere.
[BREAKING] Hong Kong Hearthstone player @blitzchungHS calls for liberation of his country in post-game interview:https://t.co/3AgQAaPioj @Matthieist #Hearthstone pic.twitter.com/DnaMSEaM4gOctober 6, 2019
As a Grandmaster, Blitzchung is one of the top Hearthstone players in the world and a de facto Blizzard representative, and has a lot to lose by taking a stand on such a politically sensitive situation. But unlike the NBA, Blitzchung isn't backing down.
"As you know there are serious protests in my country now. My call on stream was just another form of participation of the protest that I wish to grab more attention," he said in a statement. "I put so much effort in that social movement in the past few months, that I sometimes couldn't focus on preparing my Grandmaster match. I know what my action on stream means. It could cause me lot of trouble, even my personal safety in real life. But I think it's my duty to say something about the issue."
It's not just the interview clip that's been disappeared: Blitzchung's full match with Dawn that preceded the interview also appears to have been deleted. All other Asia-Pacific Grandmasters matches, including Blitzchung's first against Alutemu, are viewable on Twitch and can be see via the Hearthstone website (opens in new tab), but the Blitzchung/Dawn match is conspicuously absent. It's not clear who is actually responsible for the deletion: Hearthstone and other Blizzard games in China are actually operated by Netease.
I've reached out to Blizzard for comment, and will update if I receive a reply.