Lawmakers criticize gaming company for suspending player who supported Hong Kong protests

Lawmakers criticize gaming company for suspending player who supported Hong Kong protests
© Greg Nash

Lawmakers in both parties took aim at California-based video game company Blizzard Entertainment after it heavily penalized a Chinese player who spoke out in support of Hong Kong protesters during an interview.

Blizzard, which is based in Irvine, faced backlash from fans — including account cancellations and calls for international boycotts — after it was revealed that the company was involved in a decision to rescind all prize money and issue a one-year suspension to Blitzchung, a professional gamer who competes on Blizzard's international "Hearthstone" circuit.

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Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDes Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee Commerce Department withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon pushback: reports  Veronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address MORE (R-Fla.) and Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Wyden asks NSA to investigate White House cybersecurity | Commerce withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon objects | Warren calls on Brazil to drop Greenwald charges Wyden vows push to force release of Khashoggi assessment Wyden calls on NSA to examine White House cybersecurity following Bezos hack MORE (D-Ore.) tweeted that the issue was an example of U.S. companies being willingly engaged in Chinese efforts to tamp down on human rights.

"Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t live in #China must either self censor or face dismissal & suspensions. China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally. Implications of this will be felt long after everyone in U.S. politics today is gone," tweeted Rubio.

"Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party. No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck," added Wyden.

The company, best known for its mega-hit "World of Warcraft," has not addressed the issue publicly after news broke Tuesday.

It has largely spent time in the hours since the story came out dealing with a massive wave of user-generated fallout on Twitter, Reddit and its own forums as well as protests from streamers on the video streaming platform Twitch.

The controversy even appeared to spread to Mark Kern, a team leader and alumnus of Blizzard who previously worked on "World of Warcraft."

Elsewhere, Blizzard employees conducted their own silent protests, including covering up signs at Blizzard's Irvine headquarters referring to the company's commitment to free speech.