What was just happening? As expected, the controversy caused by Blizzard’s position on players voicing support for demonstrators in Hong Kong has come to haunt his annual BlizzCon case. Protestors showed up supporting Hong Kong with picket signs and tee-shirts and suspended Blitzchung player.
On Friday, at the Anaheim Convention Center, where the BlizzCon is held annually, a team of about 15-20 #FreeHongKong protest organizers appeared. The demonstrators held up signs of pickets and curiously put on them tee-shirts adorned with Mei from Overwatch.
Since she is Chinese, Mei has been selected as the mascot for the campaign. The black shirts show Mei raising Hong Kong’s flag and the words “Mei With Hong Kong.” Around 4,000 shirts were handed out by the organizers.
“We hope the participants will wear the shirts inside to raise awareness of what is happening in Hong Kong and the decision by Blizzard to disqualify one of its contestants for his free speech,” said one of the organizers Charles Lam to The Hollywood Reporter. “We want everyone to realize that while freedom of speech in China is limited, it shouldn’t happen in America.”
Several demonstrators were also wearing costumes of Winnie the Pooh. After protesters associated him with the simple-minded bear, Chinese President Xi Jingping banned the character. It seems crazy to wear Pooh outfits, but you can be arrested in China. It’s the way the demonstrators raised their nose to the Communist leader.
Due to the proximity of the date of the event to the ban of Hong Kong Hearthstone pro-player Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung, we expected protests to spring up at BlizzCon. Blizzard initially punished Blitzchung for holding a pro-Hong Kong sign with a one-year suspension and forfeiture of his tournament wins. It subsequently reduced the penalty to six months and returned its award money, but only after a brutal backlash.
The demonstrators of the BlizzCon certainly did not go unnoticed. During the opening ceremony, Blizzard President J. Allen Brack remembered the party and expressed his apologies.
“We haven’t met the high standards we set for ourselves, and I’m sorry,” Brack told the crowd that had been gathered. “We’re going to do better. We’re committed to allowing people to speak out.”
He then wowed the audience with a long-awaited Diablo 4 trailer. We’ll see if his words and gestures will suffice for a while to calm the waters.