U.S. lawmakers Marco Rubio, Ron Wyden, Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mike Gallagher and Tom Malinowski have penned letters to Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick and Apple CEO Tim Cook condemning the companies for their recent stances on China and pro-democracy protests currently taking place in Hong Kong.
“We write to express our deep concern about Activision Blizzard’s decision to make player Ng Wai Chung forfeit prize money and ban him from participating in tournaments for a year after he voiced support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong,” the letter addressed to Kotick reads.
Blizzard has been at the center of controversy the past two weeks after it issued a yearlong ban on professional Hearthstone player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai for voicing support of the protestors in Hong Kong during an official live stream. Since then, Blizzard Entertainment president J. Allen Brack has walked back the suspension to six months and offered to reinstate Chung’s prize winnings, but the company this week canceled a planned event in New York City and also issued a six-month ban on a trio of collegiate Hearthstone players who similarly showed support for the protesters during a stream.
“Your company claims to stand by ‘one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions,’ yet many of your own employees believe that Activision Blizzard’s decision to punish Mr. Chung runs counter to those values,” the letter continues. “Because your company is such a pillar of the gaming industry, your disappointing decision could have a chilling effect on gamers who seek to use their platform to promote human rights and basic freedoms.”
“As China amplifies its campaign of intimidation, you and your company must decide whether to look beyond the bottom line and promote American values — like freedom of speech and thought — or to give to Beijing’s demands in order to preserve market access,” the letter goes on. “We urge you in the strongest terms to reconsider your decision with respect to Mr. Chung. “
The letter is signed by Wyden, Rubio, Ocasio-Cortez, Gallagher and Malinowski, showcasing rare bipartisan support on the issue.
In a separate letter addressed to Cook, lawmakers criticized the tech giant for removing the HKMap.live used by Hong Kong protestors from its platform in China.
“Last year, you are widely quoted as saying, ‘At Apple, we are not afraid to say that our values drive our curation decisions.’ For those of us who support the promotion of basic human rights and dignity, it was refreshing to hear a tech titan say that priorities were more important than profits,” the letter to Cook reads. “So you can imagine our disappointment to read that Apple had removed HKMAP…from the App Store this week.”
“The Chinese government is growing more aggressive in its attempts to dictate terms to U.S. corporations, as last week’s headlines involving Apple, the Nation Basketball Association, and Activision Blizzard make clear,” the letter continues. “Cases like these raise real concern about whether Apple and other large U.S. corporate entities will bow to growing Chinese demands rather than lose access to more than a billion Chinese consumers.”
The letter addressed to Cook is signed by Wyden, Cotton, Rubio, Cruz, Ocasio-Cortez, Gallagher and Malinowski.
Both letters end with lawmakers urging “in the strongest terms” to “reverse course.”