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Mitsubishi Taiwan pulls Hearthstone sponsorship after Hong Kong player suspension

The company confirmed it ended its sponsorship on Oct. 9

A screenshot from the Blizzard Taiwan’s Hearthstone stream Blizzard Entertainment via Polygon
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

After Blizzard Entertainment’s controversial decision to suspend Hearthstone pro Ng “blitzchung” Wai Chung for pro-Hong Kong statements, the publisher lost a sponsorship deal with Mitsubishi Motors Taiwan, according to a report.

The Daily Beast today reported news of the canceled sponsorship, which comes after Hearthstone viewers on Reddit noticed that Mitsubishi’s logo had disappeared from broadcasts after blitzchung’s Oct. 8 suspension.

Blitzchung was originally suspended for a year and had his prize money confiscated for using a Hearthstone livestream to make statements in support of Hong Kong demonstrators. Two Taiwanese broadcasters were also punished, though their suspensions — and blitzchung’s — were shortened after Blizzard faced intense criticism from players, politicians, and its own staff.

A Mitsubishi Motors representative confirmed to Polygon that the company ended its sponsorship on Oct. 9, but had no further comment. Since the suspension, Mitsubishi’s logo has been removed from the broadcast, as well as a few toy cars that had lined the commentary desk.

Blizzard has not responded to Polygon’s inquiry.

The Hearthstone casting desk after Oct. 9
Blizzard Entertainment via Polygon

On Oct. 6, blitzchung used his post-game winner’s interview to protest injustices in Hong Kong, that sparked ongoing protests throughout the region. Blitzchung appeared on stream wearing a gas mask — a symbol of the protests — and shouted, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time.”

After initially suspending blitzchung for a year, Blizzard returned his prize money and shortened his and the casters’ suspensions to six months. Since blitzchung’s Blizzard’s decision to suspend the player, Blizzard has been the target of massive criticism, including a boycott of its games and a protest at its headquarters in Irvine, Calif.

On Oct. 18, 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) sent a letter to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, urging the company to fully reverse its sanctions. The lawmakers — as well as many others — criticized Blizzard for punishing blitzchung to keep favor with the Chinese government.

Blizzard’s annual fan convention, BlizzCon, begins this weekend in Anaheim. Protests are expected at the event.

Correction: We’ve updated this story with the correct order of blitzchung’s name.

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