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Blizzard president apologizes for Hong Kong player ban: "We moved too quickly"

Blizzard Entertainment President J. Allen Brack on Friday apologized for his company's punishing a star Hong Kong video game player named "Blitzchung" for remarks he made in support of pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. 

"You know, Blizzard had the opportunity to bring the world together in a tough Hearthstone esports moment about a month ago and we did not," Allen said at Blizzcon, the online gaming company's big annual convention in Anaheim, California. "We moved too quickly in our decision making and then, to make matters worse, we were too slow to talk with all of you." 

"When I think about what I'm most unhappy about, there's really two things: The first one is we didn't live up to the high standards that we really set for ourselves," he continued. "The second is we failed in our purpose. And for that, I am sorry and I accept accountability." 

Twitter rushed to slam the Blizzard president for what some users called an "extremely bare bones" or an "empty words" apology. 

Said one user: "amount of times J Allen Brack mentioned Hong Kong or China for why in this context all esports players should have the right of free speech and expression: 0." 

Another user wrote: "This is not an apology. Once again, just like in the original statement Blizzard made, they're not apologizing for punishing Blitzchung, they're apologizing for 'moving too quickly,' and taking too long to make an official statement." 

Still another said: "His long flowing locks aside, what does this even mean? Will they never again bow to the will of the Chinese government? My magic 8-ball says 'ask again later.'" 

The controversy started last month when Blizzard Entertainment, a unit of Activision Blizzard, suspended Hearthstone video game player Ng Wai Chung, known in gaming circles as "Blitzchung," after he shouted "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times" in a post-game interview at the Hearthstone Grandmaster tournament. 

Blizzard immediately rescinded Blitzchung's $10,000 in prize money and banned the player for one year. It then backtracked on its decision after about a week of backlash and calls for boycotts from the online esports community. 

Many saw Blizzard's response to the Hong Kong player as the latest example of an American company bowing to Chinese government influence. With its burgeoning middle class, the Chinese market is an important market for video game companies. Chinese technology giant Tencent had a 4.9% stake in Blizzard's parent company Activision Blizzard as of November 2016, the latest publicly available information.  

Some players had also called for protests at the Blizzcon convention this weekend, such as by donning "Winnie the Pooh" costumes. The cartoon bear is banned in China after internet users unfavorably likened the character to Chinese president Xi Jinping.  At least some attendees appear to have done so according to posts from Twitter users. 

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