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Epic Games promises to protect players' political speech amid Hong Kong controversy

Zachery Eanes, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) on

Published in Business News

CARY, N.C. -- After a rival video game maker banned one of its players for expressing support for protesters in Hong Kong, Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney vowed publicly that his company would protect its players' political speech.

The public stance comes after the video game maker Blizzard banned Ng "Blitzchung" Wai Chung for backing Hong Kong protesters during a live stream of a game called "Hearthstone."

Chung had yelled "Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age!" during a live stream of the game, which ultimately prompted Blizzard to ban him from competing in "Hearthstone" tournaments for a year.

It was another example of a company seeking to quell mention of the Hong Kong protests in fear that it would upset business interests in mainland China. The National Basketball Association similarly found itself enmeshed in controversy after the general manager for the Houston Rockets tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters, leading to boycotts from the Chinese government and some Chinese businesses.

On Wednesday, Sweeney -- whose Cary-based company has seen its growth skyrocket with the success of the game "Fortnite" -- tweeted, "Epic supports the rights of Fortnite players and creators to speak about politics and human rights."

The tweet came in response to a Twitter user saying they would be interested in hearing Sweeney's response to the situation because of a Chinese company's ownership stake in Epic.

 

Chinese internet giant Tencent owns a significant chunk of Epic Games. Tencent also owns a small percentage of Blizzard, PC Gamer reported.

Another user responded, asking Sweeney a hypothetical: If a "Fortnite" player said "Free Hong Kong" in a post-game interview, would Epic really not do anything?

Sweeney responded by saying "exactly."

Sweeney kept talking afterward to Twitter users who doubted that he wouldn't do anything in response because of Tencent's stake in the company.

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