You probably haven’t heard of Blitzchung but he has just cost Activision Blizzard and their subsidiary Blizzard Entertainment billions.
Blizzard (as they are commonly called) are one of the mega corporations that dominate the gaming market, from Candy Crush to Call of Duty, World of Warcraft to Overwatch they are an ever present force in in video games and one which the vast majority of gamers buy into regularly with subscriptions and micro purchases. They are also (alongside Steam) one of the major investors in the Chinese marketplace. Once locked behind the world largest electronic firewall cutting 1.4 billion people out of the world wide web (in any meaningful manner), the Chinese government has been allowing selected international companies to develop branches of their software and platforms in partnership with the state and local corporations in order to capitalise and control the new medium. The contracts are worth untold sums, already standing around 13% of the global market place. Conservative estimates see that leaping into the dozens in the coming years as Steam launch their Chinese-specific platform and home grown game developers crop up in plentitude. You just have to keep the CCP happy and comply with their censor.
So when last Sunday during a post match interview top Hearthstone player Blitzchung, real name Chung Ng Wai, wearing goggles and a face mask said “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time”, Blizzard Entertainment came down hard to protect their investments, banning him from competing for one year and rescinded the $10,000 prize money he won in the recent Asia-Pacific Grandmasters tournament.
Then, then they doubled down.
Players took to the forums in a rage, demanding Blizzard take back the judgement and reinstate Blitzchung, When they began using the forums to share news and information about the protests in Hong Kong. Blizzard, a company whose headquarters feature a statue of an Orc with plaques that say “Think Globally” and “Every Voice Matters”, implemented wild ranging censorship at the start of the week. First, it was noted they had began banning of movement-related usernames and controls put in place across their games and websites to curtail any Hong Kong related discussion. When they mass deleted comments and threads ( Minus one thread which remains a bastion of information and debate) as “trolling” and summarily handed of 1000 years bans, the players had had enough. Blizzard’s games are heavily focused on multiplayer and generally have subscription services which means players have spent thousands of hours and in many cases just as many pounds on their accounts only to have them wiped out in an instant for sharing their political solidarity with Hong Kong and thus taking a position against Activision Blizzard’s corporate partners.
By mid-week one of Overwatch’s characters, a Chinese climatologist called Mei, become a symbol of the movement both online, at gamer events and even on the streets of Hong Kong. Now even their own employees have staged walkouts in disgust. Mark Kern, the man who led the team who developed World of Warcraft, cancelled his WoW subscription and called for a boycott commenting “It’s one thing to stay out of politics in games, quite another to take harsh, punitive actions designed to appease a government whose values are against what Blizzard has traditionally stood for”.
Players followed suit. They began mass deleting accounts they had held for in excess of a decade. Outside of the gaming community, this may not seem much but this is the equivalent of tearing up your season ticket and burning all your shirts. Aside from the financial expense in doing this, people were cutting themselves out of sprawling communities they had met friends in, worked in, played in and given over so much emotion too. Particularly with games like World of Warcraft which have a player base woven into it’s very being. The stories of heartbreak and deleted account started to pour into Reddit, Imgur and other places.
At time of writing people are noticing that all four methods of account deletion are not working with SMS messages never arriving and error notices being the only return, whether this is a deliberate attempt to minimise the blood loss or whether Blizzards services are overwhelmed is hard to say however the player base seems pretty sure on the matter and have instead taken to cancelling their payments on the bank side and have began flooding Blizzard with General Data Protection Requirement (GDPR) requests and sharing solidarity during live streams, which subsequently got shut down mid-stream in the ongoing attempt to police the boycott. Yesterday, Immutable, the Australian start-up who make Hearthstone rival God’s Unchained, announced they would cover Blitzchungs prize winnings and immediately came under cyber attack once again invoking the ire of the gaming community.
While it’s true that some of this response has been typically headstrong and near sinophobic in its manner, latching on to the United States’ currently wave of anti-China sentiment during its ongoing economic battle, the vast majority has in fact been of a progressive manner. There was a wave of solidarity yesterday during Taiwan Independence Day as well as persistent and vocal solidarity with Tibet and the Xinjiang Muslim community. There has been little space given to the with nastier elements of anti Chinese racism which has been a rather refreshing change of pace from the often rather right-leaning gaming community, instead focus very much being on refusing to accept a well-loved corporations siding with state censorship and in a broader manner pushing for more pressure on China to stand down from their villainous policies of control.
Corporate collusion with governments is a given for most activists, so it’s no surprise that Activision Blizzard have acted this way, however this has come as a shock to the wider gamer community who tend towards being apolitical or centrist, a nasty reminded of the nature of corporations. Where the mounting boycott will go is anyone’s guess, however with players from across the political spectrum united in their disgust at the treatment of Blitzchung, the censorship and ridiculous long banning of players themselves this seems only to be spiralling upwards.
It’s worth taking time to note some of the other corporations so gleefully trading renminbi for ethics, here is a list of shitty corporations and the actions. ■
~ Peter Ó Máille
Originally post on Freedom News
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In 2018 a man from Hong Kong murdered his girlfriend while on vacation in Taiwan. The horrible crime would soon become the spark of resistance in Hong Kong to the authority of the Chinese Mainland in protests that would confuse comrades the world over.
Let’s make the situation clearer.
Hong Kong is not a democracy.
It has no free elections.
While “democracy” here in the UK maybe nothing more than a shallow mockery of the concept, now more than ever, in Hong Kong it is seen as the last line of defence from an ever encroaching empire. The Chinese Communist Party has no use for any system which would threaten it’s grasp, it is moving in to deliver the killing blow to freedom in Hong Kong which is aims to bring into the fold. Hongkongers are being passed from one empire to another and the world shrugs it’s shoulders. China is an economic power house, pissing them off would be bad for business.
When we talk about Hong Kong fighting for “democracy” we cannot frame it in our own context. It is a colony population fighting for the rights to self determination and autonomy. For older generations this means appealing to the former colonial masters for help, for the younger it means revolutionary action. In 2012 the political drive for democracy dried up and ground to a halt, It seemedd that Pre-Screening of electoral candidates by Beijing would increase. Resistance to this grew into the Occupy Central with Love and Peace camps and associated Umbrella Movement which saw tens of thousands holding protests and living in camps on main intersections for months in a campaign to bring about universal suffrage. During the attempts to clear out protestors the police would use tear gas and when local television broadcasted a young man named Ken Tsang being assaulted by police there was an massive escalation. Ken was carried off with his hands tied behind his back; then, while one officer kept watch, a group of about six officers punched, kicked and stamped on him for about four minutes.
The Chief Executive CY Leung would go on to defend Beijing’s screening policy as open elections would force Hong Kong into actually caring for it’s citizens and providing social welfare, he argued that “If it’s entirely a numbers game, then obviously you’d be talking to half the people in Hong Kong earning less than US$1,800 a month (the median wage). You would end up with that kind of politics and policies.”
The world gave Hong Kong silence.
Standing against China is bad for business.
It was indeed bad for business under the British who occasionally flirted with the idea during their tenure of control over Hong Kong as China has always sought to “preserve the colonial status of Hong Kong” even threatening to “liberate” the region in 1960 if democratic elections and thus self governance ever granted. Tho some there were some small developments in the 80’’s and 90’s, the Hongkongers remain citizens trapped in a system they had very little voice in. The chief executive who would govern Hong Kong after the hand over was elected by a 400 member selection committee. China began it’s programme of colonisation.
Let us speak clearly here,
China is not a communist country.
It is a brutal state authority where economic disparity is celebrated and used to throttle it’s working class into obedience. Since Deng Xiaopeng took over in 1978 the CCP as all but abandoned it’s aspirations of becoming a Marxist-Leninist workers state. In 2000 this would become policy as Jiang Zemin brought in the “Three Represents” and took the nation in pursuit of a ‘socialist market economy’ with Chinese characteristics.”. Now China has 476 of the world billionaires while the average monthly salary of the worker is around £780 a month. The means of production are in the hands of private corporations and spills out everywhere. Eduction and Healthcare are privileges of the elite. China #1 is the goal and the workers best be willing to suffer for it or be considered enemies of the all powerful state.
Under Xi Jinping this has meant a radical growth in Nationalism under the guise of a “cultural revival”, a broad sweeping facial recognition and a monitoring network » that makes 1984’s Ingsoc look like rank amateurs and has seen overt and hostile moves to consolidate China and to bring about “Complete National Reunification ”, something it was made clear he approaches with teeth bared in his statements to Taiwan in January this year; “We make no promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary means”. Like all nation states, the authority demand obedience and domination. This is something they maintain in Hong Kong through the Electoral Affairs Commission which pre-screens candidates for the Legislative Council for their political beliefs and by ensure that the The Chief Executive is selected by small body of (now) 1200 people.
This Chinese sock puppet government upon seeing the situation with the murder in Taiwan and under the guise of stopping Hong Kong from becoming a safe haven from criminals moved to install The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019. This bill would allow China to extradite certain criminals and run them through the radically different legal system in the mainland. One which is controlled by the CCP. This doesn’t come without precedent mind. In March 2017 the Chinese state kidnapped pro-democracy activist Lee Ming-Che saying he was under investigation on “suspicion of harming national security.”. He later plead guilty to “subverting state power” which it’s believed he was forced into.
So they begin to forward a bill many fear will be used to allow China to drag them away in the night. Resistance started on the 31st of March when the Civil Human Rights Front, an organisation composed of some 50 pro-democracy groups, launched it’s first protest against The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019. It was a civil march through the city of 12,000 people. The following March on the 28th saw 500,000.
These were acts of civil disobedience but the tension was building and Ahead of the second reading of the bill organisers called for a return to demonstration on the 9th June.
Four hours after the march began, people were still leaving the start point at Victoria Park. Well over a million marched and a great many of them did not return home. Autonomists, students and pro-independence campaigners began to camp out in front of the Government headquarters. This was the moment where things changed, around midnight, the police forces Special Tactical Squad (STS) moved in and clashes broke out and mass protests took place through the night.
Come the 12th and the second reading, everyone was out. From the unions and opposition groups, to student networks and Anarchist affinity groups. The variety of political positions was vast but they came unified in opposition the the Bill and the Chinese state undermining their political agency. By 4pm the police had began using pepper spray and attacking people,and shooting tear gas on them. The Hong Kong protests as we see them on the news had begun.
Over the next three weeks there would be numerous protests from strikes, sit in and even the odd siege of police stations. The lawyers held a silent march, the legislature was raided, there was a laser festival and the airport was sat in. Whether peaceful or militant it was quite clear there was a strong sense of political unity, which over time would develop into tactical unity. The protests were organised organically, without leadership and without any singular faction taking control somewhat confusing the world media. Around the world it seems people were confused, were they pro-capitalists? Nationalist? Unions? Or even Anarchists?... The answer is yes.
Beyond all the “riot porn” and unexpected but enjoyable guides to “protesting like Hongkongers” movements such as this are diverse. It doesn’t matter if some groups waves the Stars and stripes and the sinophobic right wing of America loose their shit or if the budget is there for full page ads in newspapers around the world. The movement is diverse and at it’s core working class and grass roots.
This is the nature of a popular rebellion and like the Mouvement des gilets jaunes, they have endeavoured to maintain this and keep it grass roots. There has been two forms of protests; first there is the the civil marches full of the usual flags,placards, banners and liberal calls for democracy, they do well bringing in thousands and keeping an approachable voices to the movement. Secondly there is the direct protest actions such as holding of barricades, blocking roads and it has seen the development of new a hit and run methodology, a tactic commonly referred to as “be water”.
It’s worth noting as well that as a general rule of thumb during the more radical protests, it has become the standard practice to take down any flags and hand them back to their owner and disapprove of having their movement represented with either flags of foreign powers or local organisations. The exception to this seems to be the Black Bauhinia flag, which has come to symbolise the protests.
Along the way five demands began to present themselves.
It is on these these demands that they have come to organise and identity their collective action. It’s on these demands they are beginning to see a response as Carrie Lam moved to withdraw the bill on the 4th of September. She also requested that protestors end their demonstrations and enter into dialogue with the government. This is code for “please allow us time to re-group, hunt down leaders and remove your revolutionary agency”.
The protestors would have none of it.
At the Citizens Press Conference the next night, the young protestors and armed with helmets and masked up gave their reply in three languages. The spoke with passion and dedication to their cause and made their position on Lam’s offer of a truce clear.
“If Carrie Lam had withdrawn the bill two months ago, that may have been a quick fix, but applying a band-aid months later on to rotting flesh will simply not cut it ... Liberate Hong Kong, The revolution of our times, five demands not one less. Fight on and take care fellow Hongkongers”
We cannot afford to be trapped in our anarchistic dogma as working class comrades around the world suffer brutality at the hands of the state or as they are forced to live in unjust societies with neither voice nor liberty. We must be overt and vocal in our solidarity and where capable take action in support of their cause. Not as allies but as accomplices and together we fight back against all the evil empires and hopefully sharing our notions of Anarchism as we go providing a better option for this world we are building. Heck, even if you are fundamentally hostile to the liberal protest for democracy, know that our Anarchist comrades are out there on the streets, defending their comrades regardless, defending their communities from the police and the government. Give them your love and solidarity until they win this struggle.
FIVE DEMANDS NOT ONE LESS ■
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