In the wake of Blizzard's decision to suspend pro-Hearthstone player Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai for his pro-Hong Kong statements made during a Grandmasters stream, Chung's future in competitive Hearthstone was uncertain. Now, Chung has signed with esports team Tempo Storm as its newest Hearthstone player.
Tempo Storm announced it signed Chung on its official website yesterday. Andrey Yanyuk, Tempo Storm's founder, owner, and a former pro Hearthstone player himself, lauds Chung for his character in a statement released with the announcement:
We believe first and foremost in supporting players and encouraging them to engage and to speak out on the things about which they are most passionate. In many ways, we value the character and integrity of our players as much as, if not more than, their tournament placings. blitzchung brings incredible talent, an infectious personality, and a great deal of enthusiasm, for Hearthstone as well as his community and others around him. He exemplifies what Tempo believes in, and we welcome him as an ambassador for our brand.
Shortly after Blizzard's initial decision, Chung told USgamer he was unsure if he would continue casually playing Hearthstone. Moving forward as a member of Tempo Storm, Chung will stream Hearthstone until his suspension expires, at which point he plans to rejoin official competition.
"Since I haven't reached my professional goals yet, and I don't want to fall by the wayside, I will start competing again after I am unbanned," says Chung in a statement for Tempo Storm.
After initially suspending Chung for a year and rescinding his winnings from the Hearthstone Grandmasters circuit, Blizzard reduced the suspension to six months and restored the prize money following public and internal protest. Blizzard also halved the year suspensions for the two commentators who appeared Chung, and imposed a six-month suspension on an American University team that held up a sign in support of the Hong Kong protests against China and that called for a boycott of Blizzard.
When Blizzard reduced the suspension, company president J. Allen Brack said the decision was not influenced by the nature of Chung's views, nor Blizzard's business relationships in China. Nonetheless, a bipartisan group of lawmakers address a letter to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick a week later, calling the suspension "particularly concerning in light of the Chinese government's growing appetite for pressuring American business to help stifle free speech."
Blizzard is expected to make several announcements this weekend at BlizzCon 2019 concerning several of its major franchises—given recent events and Blizzard's internal turmoil prior to the suspension controversy, the company has a lot riding on the show. Plans for a protest of the event are reportedly still underway.