Epic Games says it won’t ban Fortnite players for political speech

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Amid controversy that Blizzard Entertainment bowed to pressure from the Chinese government in banning a Hearthstone player who voiced political support for Hong Kong, Epic Games founder and CEO Tim Sweeney says his company would never make such a move. “That will never happen on my watch as the founder, CEO, and controlling shareholder [of Epic Games],” Sweeney said on Twitter.

Sweeney’s comments follow a statement from Epic sent to The Verge, in which the Fortnite and Unreal Engine maker said it “supports everyone’s right to express their views on politics and human rights.” The company said it wouldn’t punish a Fortnite player or content creator for speaking out on subjects like Hong Kong’s ongoing political protests.

“Epic supports the rights of Fortnite players and creators to speak about politics and human rights,” Sweeney said on Twitter. He was responding to another user who pointed out that Epic Games is 40-percent owned by Chinese company Tencent, which also holds a small stake in Blizzard.

Sweeney was firm on his stance, even when another Twitter presented him with the following hypothetical situation: “so if say [Fortnite streamer Tfue] said ‘Free Hong Kong’ in a post-game interview, you wouldn’t do anything?”

“Exactly,” Sweeney responded.

“Epic is a US company and I’m the controlling shareholder,” he added. “Tencent is an approximately 40% shareholder, and there are many other shareholders including employees and investors.”

Sweeney’s comments come in the midst of still-roiling controversy over Blizzard’s punishment of Hearthstone pro player Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai. In a post-match interview on Sunday, Chung shouted “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time,” a slogan associated with the protests. The next day, Blizzard disciplined Chung, stripping him of his game winnings and banning him from professional play for a year. The move has led to anger from Blizzard fans and calls for boycotts of the company.

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