The U.S.-based gaming big Activision Blizzard — which made a participant forfeit $10,000 in prize cash and banned him from a sport for one 12 months after he voiced help for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong — was slammed by critics Tuesday who accused the corporate of prioritizing its pursuit of enterprise in China over supporting free speech.

Activision Blizzard, based mostly in Santa Monica, Calif., banned Ng Wai Chung, who performs remotely from Hong Kong, from competing within the firm’s on-line multiplayer card sport Hearthstone E-sports for one 12 months. The 21-year-old identified on-line as “Blitzchung” had simply gained $10,000 within the Hearthstone Asia-Pacific Grandmasters match when he declared in a livestream video interview in Mandarin: “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our instances.” He was carrying a fuel masks and goggles, the identical gear worn by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrators, when he made the assertion, The Guardian reported.

BLIZZARD BANS HEARTHSTONE PLAYER FOR SUPPORTING HONG KONG ‘REVOLUTION’

U.S. lawmakers from either side of the aisle tweeted Tuesday that Activision Blizzard’s choice to censor one among its gamers’ political beliefs speaks to a wider concern about China’s market energy getting used as leverage to stifle free speech worldwide.

“Acknowledge what’s taking place right here. Individuals who don’t reside in #China should both self censor or face dismissal & suspensions,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wrote on Twitter. “China utilizing entry to market as leverage to crush free speech globally.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., stated: “Blizzard exhibits it’s keen to humiliate itself to please the Chinese language Communist Occasion. No American firm ought to censor requires freedom to make a fast buck.”

The Chinese language tech firm Tencent owns a 5 p.c stake in Activision Blizzard, which earned $173 million, or about 12 p.c of its whole income, from the Asia-Pacific area final quarter, based on the corporate’s public earnings report.

China’s authorities has focused an array of U.S.-based organizations, together with the NBA, for perceived help of the Hong Kong anti-government protests. Apple Inc. turned the most recent on Wednesday when the ruling Communist Occasion’s predominant newspaper criticized the tech big for a smartphone app on its App Retailer that permits activists to report police areas and use of tear fuel.

Chung addressed the controversy Tuesday in a livestream on a distinct service referred to as Twitch, the New York Occasions reported.

“At present, what I’ve misplaced in Hearthstone is 4 years of time,” he stated, referring to the time and vitality he’s devoted to play the sport professionally. “But when Hong Kong loses, it might be the matter of a lifetime.”

“I didn’t anticipate my feedback would make a big impact,” he continued, based on The Guardian. “That is my freedom of speech. … I shouldn’t be scared. I hope my act can encourage different players like me, to proceed to help the motion in Hong Kong.”

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Activision Blizzard stated in a press release that Chung had violated a match rule that stops gamers from partaking in any act that “brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the general public, or in any other case damages Blizzard picture.”

“Whereas we stand by one’s proper to precise particular person ideas and opinions, gamers and different contributors that elect to take part in our esports competitions should abide by the official competitors guidelines,” the assertion stated.

A small group of Activision Blizzard workers gathered outdoors headquarters in Irvine, Calif., on Tuesday in help of Chung, The Day by day Beast reported. Fellow players additionally referred to as for boycotts of Activision Blizzard gaming websites, which embrace different multiplayer hits like World of Warcraft and Overwatch, and voiced help for Chung in a well-liked Cantonese-language on-line discussion board referred to as LIHKG, The Guardian reported.

The Related Press contributed to this report.