Despite reassessing the suspension of Hearthstone player Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai over pro-Hong Kong statements, it seems like Blizzard isn't out of the fire just yet. Several United States lawmakers, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Marco Rubio, have signed a joint letter addressed to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, expressing deep concern over Chung's suspension.
Chung was initially suspended for 12 months, with his prize money rescinded, for saying "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age" during a post-match interview for Hearthstone Grandmasters. After significant outcry from every direction, Blizzard reduced his suspension to six months and rewarded Chung his earned prize money. And while Chung has said he accepts the ruling, that hasn't seemed to quiet the crowd.
The letter in question, signed by U.S. senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), and representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Mike Gallagher (R-WI), and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), expresses "deep concern" about the ruling. (Note: the letter mentions the previous ruling of 12 months, rather than Blizzard's amended ruling from one week ago.)
"This decision is particularly concerning in light of the Chinese government's growing appetite for pressuring American business to help stifle free speech," the letter says. Hong Kong is currently embroiled in ongoing protests against China's intervention in the country. Several major instances in the past few weeks, including an episode of South Park and issues within the NBA, have raised tensions over China's stake in many major corporations, including Activision Blizzard. The letter cites Blizzard's benefiting from China's growing esports market, as well as an investment from Chinese company Tencent.
"Your company claims to stand by 'one's right to express individual thoughts and opinions,'" the letter says. "Yet many of your own employees believe that Activision Blizzard's decision to punish Mr. Chung runs counter to those values. Because your company is such a pillar of the gaming industry, your disappointing decision could have a chilling effect on gamers who seek to use their platform to promote human rights and basic freedoms."
The letter ends with a call to reconsider the decision. "You have the opportunity to reverse course," it says. "We urge you to take it." You can read the letter in full here.
As the U.S. government gets more involved in gaming issues, like ongoing discussions of loot box legislation, the global nature of esports has escalated this one incident into the international spotlight, and Blizzard along with it. Even in the days since lowering Chung's suspension, Blizzard has had to cancel events as talk of boycotts continue. With BlizzCon inching ever closer, it's hard to see how Blizzard can right the ship.