Blizzard denies pro Hearthstone player ban had anything to do with China

It also reduces Blitzchung's ban to six months and gives him back his winnings.

Oscar Gonzalez Former staff reporter
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Activision Blizzard

Blizzard revises its penalty after days of protest.

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After days of silence, Blizzard issued a statement Friday saying its decision to ban Hearthstone pro player Chung "Blitzchung" Ng Wai wasn't influenced by its relationship with China. It also reduced his ban to six months and will award him his winnings for his latest victory. 

The statement from Blizzard President J. Allen Brack focused on the company's choice to penalize Blitzchung after he expressed his support for the Hong Kong protests this past Sunday. Brack specifically pointed out that a rule was broken, hence Blizzard's decision, which had nothing to do with the side Blitzchung took nor the company's own Chinese interests. 

"The specific views expressed by Blitzchung were NOT a factor in the decision we made," Brack said Friday. "I want to be clear: Our relationships in China had no influence on our decision."

Brack went on to say the company listened to its community and employees and realized it acted too swiftly and harshly. Blitzchung's ban will now last six months instead of 12, and he'll receive his last tournament award. The casters of the event who did a postgame interview with Blitzchung were also punished but will have their penalties reduced to six months as well. 

Since it took action Tuesday, Blizzard has received a wave of backlash from gamers, who've deleted their accounts with the company, canceled preorders of games and "review bombed" the game at the center of the controversy, Hearthstone, on both the Apple App Store and Google Play. US senators also spoke up about their disappointment in an American company taking action against someone who expressed his opinion. 

Originally published Oct. 11, 5:46 p.m. PT.
Update, 6:09 p.m.: Adds more background details.