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Following the news that Blizzard suspended Hearthstone pro player Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai for coming out in support of the Hong Kong protests, the backlash against the company has been severe and wide-reaching. Politicians, gamers, and numerous members of Blizzard staff around the world swiftly condemned the company's decision.
If you missed it, Blitzchung appeared during a live post-game interview over the weekend and, wearing a mask similar to the ones worn by the protesters, the Hearthstone pro said "liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our age!"
Blizzard responded by stating that Blitzchung was in violation of the 2019 Hearthstone Grandmasters Official Competition rules, removing him from the competition, banning him from playing the game in a pro capacity for one year, and taking away the prize money he'd earned during Grandmasters Season 2. The casters on stream at the time have also been told they'll no longer be able to work with Blizzard.
"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 competition must abide by the official competition rules," Blizzard explained.
Despite this, the overwhelming majority have taken against Blizzard's ruling and are fighting the company in various ways. Over on r/HongKong (via Eurogamer), for example, multiple posters are now attempting to turn Overwatch Hero Mei into a Hong Kong protest symbol - something which would quite obviously rub Blizzard up the wrong way, to put it lightly.
One poster wrote, "It would be such a shame if Mei from Overwatch became a pro-democracy symbol and got Blizzard's games banned in China."
"Let's get back at Blizzard by making Mei a pro-democracy symbol!" reads a tweet which, at the time of writing, has had nearly 6k retweets and 13k likes.
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It's a movement that's rapidly gathered steam, as numerous pieces of artwork and posters have started to appear, both on r/HongKong and r/Blizzard, that depict Mei in Hong Kong colours or wearing a gas mask similar to ones worn by the protesters. Blitzchung was also wearing a similar mask when he appeared on the stream.
Meanwhile, on Twitter, the hashtag #meiwithhongkong is being used to share similar artwork, messages of support, and protest slogans. Take a look at a small sample of tweets below.
Many critics of Blizzard have suggested that its suspension of Blitzchung was a move to protect its business interests in China, so idea behind using Mei as a symbol for the protesters is so that Overwatch might end up banned or censored in China, which could cause financial damage to Blizzard in the country.
Blizzard banned pro Hearthstone winner for supporting free Hong Kong and took away his prize money. It would be SUCH A SHAME if Mei became a symbol of Hong Kong democracy and got #Overwatch banned in China like Pooh did
#FreeHongKong #MeiWithHongKong #MeiSupportsHongKong pic.twitter.com/yPum1ZTQqH
- Wenqing Yan (@Yuumei_Art) October 9, 2019
End corporate censorship!#MeiWithHongKong#HongKongProtest #hongkong pic.twitter.com/eLLfXEp3hT
- OlliOx (@OxOlli) October 9, 2019
The world is worth fighting for #MeiSupportsHongKong #MeiWithHongKong pic.twitter.com/5zsni320AE
- Proxy - COMMISSIONS OPEN:hearts: (@ProxysArt) October 9, 2019
It's safe to say Blizzard may have inadvertently poked a (barely) sleeping dragon in the eye here, and it's unlikely the backlash will cease anytime soon.
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