In your house right now, there is an object close to you that has three simple words on it. Usually, it’s on the back or bottom of the thing, hidden in a place most of us don’t bother to look. The phrase says a lot about what it means to be an American, which is ironic since the phrase is “Made in China.”
China is where we get most of our things. We think only about how affordable it is and rarely gather enough energy to ask ourselves why is it so affordable. How would we feel if we actually knew the whole story? If we did know, how far are we willing to go to buy items made from people who work regular hours, are paid an actual livable wage, and work for a company that cares for the health of their employees? At the very least, are we willing to boycott our entertainment if it meant a company heavily intertwined with China would think twice?
Recent events with Blizzard and the Hong Kong protests show me–and the President of Blizzard Entertainment J. Allen Brack–that people do care and are willing to do what it takes to show their support even halfway across the globe.
Before diving into what happened why Blizzard and the Hong Kong protests are connected, I think it’s important to take a look at where it all began.
China is considered a communist state, but Hong Kong is thought of as a “limited democracy.” While Hong Kong has it’s own laws and regulations that are compared to British common law, the Chinese government often pushes itself and its rule into the city. This has brought about many protests but the most recent is unlike like the others.
It began with a new law stating that criminals and suspects in Hong Kong could be extradited to China. Citizens in Hong Kong began a protest because they believe this would give too much power to China and the law would be used to target certain people–the people that we all need and rely on for honesty such as journalists, activists, and political critics. For weeks, the protesters pushed on and persevered. Eventually, Carrie Lam, the leader of Hong Kong, announced that the bill was “suspended indefinitely.”
This wasn’t enough for Hong Kong citizens, as a suspended bill could easily (and often quietly) be brought back and passed, so protesters called for the bill to completely withdrawn – in no uncertain terms.
As with nearly any and every protest, police are called to intervene. A tenseness evolves between the two groups – an “us versus them.” Sometimes the protesters become violent first, and sometimes the police do. Since large protests are impossible to monitor any violence that begins is hard to track. The Hong Kong protests have been no different. Hong Kong police have used tear gas, rubber bullets, and even real bullets while the protesters have used bricks and firebombs. It’s been a horrible downward spiral since.
This is about when famous Hearthstone player Chung Ng Wai, also called Blitzchung, used his time in an interview to shout out his support for the protesters: “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!”
Blizzard’s reaction was to ban him for 12 months and take away the prize money he had already earned in this year’s Hearthstone tournament. (Recently they have pulled back the ban to 6 months and decided to give him back his prize money due to the backlash. )
Never would I have thought that politics and any section of the geeky community would mix together in such a horrible way. But the reality is, I never paid enough attention to it because as I was researching this mess, I came across another reason people should #BoycottBlizzard: they are punishing members of the LGBT+ community. A World of Warcraft guild called “GAY BOYS” was forced to change their name because the name “would elicit a reaction from other players.”So Blizzard is willing to support the LGBT community but is it only if it benefits them (i.e. their sales)?
Perhaps Blizzard thought no one would notice, or at the very least only a handful of people who play their games would care. It was a terrible oversight on their part because the internet (most importantly Reddit) made the decision overwhelmingly apparent to everyone–not just people who play their games, but to politicians, major news companies, and people who don’t even know what Blizzard is. Web searches on how to deactivate Blizzard accounts increased, as did “delete Blizzard account” and “f*** Blizzard.” #BoycottBlizzard trended on Twitter.
A day after Access Now, a human rights organization, issued a statement saying that Blizzard has “a lack of respect for freedom of expression” and “intentionally vague policies,” Blizzard issued a statement of their own after realizing ignoring the issue was a terrible way to handle people’s anger.
At Blizzard, our vision is “to bring the world together through epic entertainment.” And we have core values that apply here: Think Globally; Lead Responsibly; and importantly, Every Voice Matters, encouraging everybody to share their point of view.
The specific views expressed by Blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made. I want to be clear: our relationships in China had no influence on our decision.
[“We express our strong indignation [or resentment] and condemnation of the events that occurred in the Hearthstone Asia Pacific competition last weekend and absolutely oppose the dissemination of personal political ideas during any events [or games]. The players involved will be banned, and the commentators involved will be immediately terminated from any official business. Also, we will protect [or safeguard] our national dignity [or honor].”
What makes all of this worse is China’s President, Xi Jinping, said that he would “crush and shatter [the] bones” of anyone wanting to “split China.” This threat isn’t empty–China already has concentration camps for Turkic Muslims as an attempt to eradicate them, their culture, and their language.
If it isn’t clear enough, I’ll make it as obvious as I possibly can: Blizzard, Apple, the NBA, and all the other companies that are willing to work with a government that has concentration camps, are not companies we should support. It’s not only because of the camps or the Hong Kong protests–it’s the way employees are treated, it’s growth on mass surveillance, and the harassment and violence towards human rights lawyers and activists.
But there’s a problem that arises: how hard is it to stop supporting human rights abuse when 50% of what the average American has was Made in China?
The solution to this is social pressure.
Chinese-run newspapers have already been told to avoid running stories about the NBA due to fears that the issue surrounding it would internationally ruin China’s image. American lawmakers are also pushing to increase official observations of Chinese companies and firms.
Change in multinational corporations is slow, but it’s been enough so far for them to pay attention and we need to keep pushing it. Even United States Senators, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and others have called on Blizzard to reverse the Hearthstone suspension.
Blizzard Entertainment should realize that their fans will not support a company with shallow values. Fans will to move to any other gaming company that legitimately supports equality and human rights if this does not change for the better in the near future. It is terrifying that an American video game developer would be so willing to continue to stand firm with their support of decisions that please only the Chinese government over the very real fight for freedom and those that support the cause.
Especially when many storylines that are featured in their most popular games showcase the heroes fighting against tyranny.