AOC, Rubio, and Other Legislators Pen Letter to Activision Blizzard CEO Over Hearthstone Player's Suspension

AOC, Rubio, and Other Legislators Pen Letter to Activision Blizzard CEO Over Hearthstone Player's Suspension

A bipartisan letter from U.S. lawmakers urges Blizzard to correct course.

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Chung was initially suspended for 12 months, with his prize money rescinded, for saying "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age" during a post-match interview for Hearthstone Grandmasters.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.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Eric Van Allen

News Editor

Eric is a writer and Texan. He's a former contributor to sites including Compete, Polygon, Waypoint, and the Washington Post. He loves competitive games, live music, and travel.

In other news

Rocket League Won't Need Switch Online or PlayStation Plus Once It's Free-to-Play

That once agains leaves Xbox as the odd platform out.

Ubisoft's Next Forward Presentation Will Show Off Watch Dogs: Legion and More Next Week

Watch Dogs: Legion, Rainbow Six Siege, and the game formerly known as Gods & Monsters will be there.

Some Rocket League Cosmetics, Like the Mario Cars, Can't Move Between Platforms

Any pop-culture crossover or console exclusive will stay tied to where you got it.

Riot Games Partnership With Controversial Saudi City Project Results in Immediate Backlash [Update]

Fans, commentators, and even Riot employees are publicly speaking out.

Need help?

How to Complete the Fortnite Pipeman, Hayman, Timber Tent Locations Challenge

Here's how you can complete the Fortnite challenge to dance in front of the pipeman, hayman, and timber tent locations.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare: How to Access Spec Ops Missions

Spec Ops missions are co-op, wave-based affairs. Here’s how to play them.

Super Smash Bros Ultimate Terry Bogard Tips

SNK’s Terry Bogard has been added to Smash Bros. Here’s how to play him.