Magic: The Gathering pro on Hong Kong protest: 'blitzchung's action inspired me a lot'
Following an emotional match win at the Mythic Championship this weekend (seen below), Magic: The Gathering hall-of-famer Lee Shi Tian used his winner's interview to support ongoing protests in Hong Kong.
Lee appeared on stage during the event in Long Beach, California over the weekend wearing a red scarf obscuring his face, a symbol of support for demonstrators in Hong Kong. (Masks protect protesters from tear gas, but are also important in protecting identities - and the Hong Kong government is attempting to crack down on them.) The storied Magic: The Gathering player also covered his right eye as he entered the stage, another symbol protesters have been using to condemn police brutality. Lee's on-screen demonstration follows Blizzard Entertainment's decision to suspend Hearthstone player Chung "blitzchung" Ng Wai for an on-screen protest earlier in October.
"As a professional gamer, this is the place for me to show my support to him, Hong Kong, freedom of speech, and democracy," Lee told Polygon. "Blitzchung's action inspired me a lot - and show the world that the universal value was at risk. This is happening in the world right now."
Lee told Polygon that Magic: The Gathering developer Wizards of the Coast has not disciplined him for the action. "They did not stop me five years ago, and they did not stop me this time," he said.
In 2014, Hongkongers protested in the streets over a proposed reform to the region's electoral system. These protests are commonly referred to as the Umbrella Revolution. Lee used his participation in the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour in 2014 to make a statement about the protests - he named his deck "Umbrella Revolution" and wore a yellow ribbon, he said, noting he was "not pushing as much as this time." Protests this year began in early June as Hong Kong citizens protested proposed changes to an extradition bill, which has since been suspended. There are now five demands for the government, including full democracy and an investigation into police brutality.
Lee referenced Hong Kong in his post-game interview. "It feels so good to play as a free man," he said.
Magic Pro League member Jessica Estephan posted to Twitter that "neither Lee nor any casters are being punished" for the act. Another person suggested that mods were instructed to allow mentions of Hong Kong. Polygon has reached out to Wizards of the Coast for clarification.
Last week, U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Mike Gallagher (R-WI), and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) wrote a letter to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick urging the company - "in the strongest terms" - to reverse Chung's suspension. The group of lawmakers said the decision to suspend Chung "runs counter to [Activision Blizzard's] values," and could have "a chilling effect on gamers who seek to use their platform to promote human rights and basic freedoms."
Blizzard continues to face criticism from players and internally as its annual fan convention, BlizzCon, approaches.
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