Activision Blizzard could be one of the biggest U.S. gaming companies, but it's still powerless when operating in China. The company needs to follow strict business rules to avoid a potential confrontation and backlash from the world’s second-largest economy.

Blizzard, this week, announced that it punished a Hong Kong-based player from speaking out on behalf of the much-intense Hongkong protest. The gaming giant has suspended a professional player of Hearthstone, a digital card game.

According to CNBC, the professional player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai has been suspended from an esports tournament and strips him of his earnings after he made a statement, over the weekend, in support of ongoing protests in Hong Kong. 

800px-All-Star_eSports_Arena,_Taipei_Game_Show_20190126a esports event Photo: Solomon203/Wikimedia Creative Commons

In a recent post-match interview, the professional player said, “Liberate Hong Kong, a revolution of our time,” while wearing a gas mask and goggles, which are two items commonly used by Hong Kong protestors to conceal their identity from the public. But, Chung fought back and tried to explain his side to the media. In a recent conversation with esports blog Invern Global, the professional player said that the incident was just another form of participation of the protest and that he just wished to get more attention from the public or media.

Unfortunately, Chung’s action, during the stream, has caught the attention of Blizzard, a subsidiary of US-based gaming giant Activision Blizzard. Chung’s move has prompted a fierce response from the gaming company, suspending Chung from the esports tournament along with the casters, who made the interview.

Blizzard made an explanation about its decision to suspend the professional player. The company, according to CNBC, said that Chung violated the official Hearthstone Grandmasters rules, explaining to the media that it was “individual behavior which does not represent Blizzard or Hearthstone Esports," and that rule prohibits engaging in any activity that could damage Blizzard image.

The company has immediately removed Chung from Grandmasters and announced that he will receive no prize money from his earning on Grandmasters Season 2. Additionally, Blizzard also confirmed that Chung will be not allowed to participate in Hearthstone esports for 12 months, starting Oct. 5, 2019, to October 2020. Blizzard is the latest foreign company to bow to China’s strict censorship to control Hong Kong's pro-democracy effort. 

The news about Chung’s suspension came after a similar incident rocked the NBA, America’s premier basketball league. The latest suspension news highlights the challenges foreign companies face while operating within China’s autocratic government.

This is not the first time the company has suspended a player from playing or participating in the event. Recently, the Chinese tech giant Tencent also announced similar suspension, involving NBA preseason games in China. Tencent has suspended the NBA preseason games, following a tweet made by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey where the manager showed his strong support for the ongoing anti-government demonstration in Hong Kong.

The much-intense Hong Kong, which started over a simple extradition law, has now morphed into a broad-based demand to protect the city’s democratic political system from China’s strict control.