[Heads up: long post]
By American enterprises, no less. And, no, this time I’m not talking about American social media like Facebook or Twitter. Keep in mind the NBA’s ongoing assault on free speech in the form of openly rejecting one team General Manager’s tweet supporting freedom in Hong Kong. The NBA’s response—from individual players on up, through team coaching staff and front office personnel, to the NBA’s head office and its commissioner, Adam Silver—was to reject the GM’s tweet in sum and substance and to apologize to the People’s Republic of China’s government and sports authorities so meekly as to be, metaphorically, in deep bows while doing so. And that GM abjectly deleted his own tweet—he didn’t even have the courage of his conviction.
Now we get an American game-making company kneeling and kowtowing to the PRC. Activision Blizzard, maker of Hearthstone E-sports, an on-line multi-player card game, has banned one of its Hong-Kong players for his heinous crime of speaking out against the PRC’s abuse of Hong Kong during the present ongoing crisis in that city. Activision Blizzard
banned Ng Wai Chung, who plays remotely from Hong Kong, from competing in the company’s online multiplayer card game Hearthstone E-sports for one year. The 21-year-old known online as “Blitzchung” had just won $10,000 in the Hearthstone Asia-Pacific Grandmasters tournament when he declared in a livestream video interview in Mandarin: “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.” He was wearing a gas mask and goggles, the same equipment worn by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrators, when he made the statement[.]
This company also forced the man to forfeit those $10,000 (HK$78,444.80).
These are American companies that are saying the approval of the PRC government and the flow of the PRC’s money into their coffers are more important than upholding American values. Senator Marco Rubio (R, FL) is on the right track in his tweet, although he has the order of emphasis reversed:
Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t live in #China must either self censor or face dismissal & suspensions. China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally. Implications of this will be felt long after everyone in U.S. politics today is gone.
The PRC isn’t so much using its market power to crush free speech as American companies are voluntarily surrendering free speech and kowtowing from their knees to PRC pressure, favoring PRC money over liberty, preferring personal and company wealth over American values.
Senator Ron Wyden (D, OR) is more direct in his tweet:
Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party. No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck.
Activision Blizzard issued a statement that said this, in rationalization of its ban on Chung:
we have found [Chung’s] action has violated the 2019 Hearthstone Grandmasters Official Competition Rules…”Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image.”
While we stand by one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions, players and other participants that elect to participate in our esports competitions must abide by the official competition rules.
Think about that statement for a moment. Standing for a people’s right to their own liberty, acting on one’s own right to speak freely, are acts that bring you into public disrepute, offend a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damage Blizzard image. It’s disreputable to defend others or to speak freely. What Blizzard considers damaging to its own image is offending the men of despotic governments.
It’s not just Blizzard, though. That NBA thing also censors calls for freedom in order to fill its bank boxes with PRC money. In the league’s ongoing assault on free speech and PRC favor-currying, this happened during a Washington Wizards home game against the PRC’s Guangzhou Long-Lions:
[P]rotesters, who said they were from Freedom House, held up signs that read: “Shame the NBA,” “South Park was right,” and “Memo to the NBA: Principles over profit! No censorship! USA loves Hong Kong.”
Arena security confiscated those signs and others in the same vein addressing Tibet and the Uighurs. Because free speech is only that speech that doesn’t offend the PRC.
In addition, Apple, after coming in for PRC opprobrium for having an app, HKmap.live, in its store that could allow Hong Kong protestors to track police movements, has meekly removed that app. Apple also has obeyed the PRC’s demand that its news app, Quartz, be deleted from the Apple PRC app store.
More: Alphabet’s Google subsidiary has removed from its Google Play store The Revolution of Our Times,
a mobile game that allowed players to role-play as a Hong Kong protester.
Alphabet did this on the demand of the PRC’s Hong Kong police.
As an aside, this also happened at the Wizards-Long-Lions game:
After the Chinese national anthem was played, one person shouted: “Freedom of expression! Freedom of speech! Free Hong Kong!”
Notice that: after their national anthem, not during it. Would that American athletes had that much respect for our own national anthem.
This comes alongside Alphabet’s long-standing refusal to support our defense establishment, for instance on artificial intelligence projects, while enthusiastically working on AI projects in the People’s Republic of China.
Ben Franklin wrote that our Constitution was written for a virtuous people, as that’s what it would take for effective self-governance. The people who run our businesses are losing that virtue.