A group of US politicians from both sides of the fence have written to Activision Blizzard saying the company should take back its ban of Hearthstone pro Blitzchung aka Chung Ng Wai (pictured).
In a letter to CEO Robert Kotick, Senators Marco Rubio and Ron Wyden, as well as Members of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mike Gallagher and Tom Malinowski said the company should not be "stifling" free speech to keep China on-side.
The US politicians make reference to Chinese tech and entertainment company Tencent's stake in the Hearthstone and Overwatch firm, which stands at around five per cent these days.
“Your company claims to stand by ‘one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions,’ yet many of your own employees believe that Activision Blizzard’s decision to punish Mr. Chung runs counter to those values," the unlikely alliance of politicians wrote.
"Because your company is such a pillar of the gaming industry, your disappointing decision could have a chilling effect on gamers who seek to use their platform to promote human rights and basic freedoms. Indeed, many gamers around the world have taken notice of your company’s actions, understandably calling for boycotts of Activision Blizzard gaming sites.
“As China amplifies its campaign of intimidation, you and your company must decide whether to look beyond the bottom line and promote American values—like freedom of speech and thought—or to give in to Beijing’s demands in order to preserve market access. We urge you in the strongest terms to reconsider your decision with respect to Mr. Chung. You have the opportunity to reverse course. We urge you to take it.”
Blizzard initially banned Blitzchung for one year and took away his prize-winning at the start of October. The community has been protesting the company's decision - as have members of staff at the games giant. In a statement almost a week after the initial ban, Blizzard president J Allen Brack said that its ties to China played no part to the decision to ban Blitzchung, as well as that the company was giving Blitzchung his winnings back and reducing the ban to just six months. However, the company did say it didn't want its esports events to be about anything other than the games being played.
This sentiment was echoed by Tencent-owned League of Legends maker Riot Games. Fellow games firm Epic Games - part-owned by Tencent - has said that it won't be banning or punishing its Fortnite players for expressing political views.