Hong Kong, Blizzard Backlash, and Internet Memes

How memes are being used as advocacy online

Aaron J. Alford
7 min readOct 10, 2019

This past week Blizzard Entertainment banned Hearthstone player Chung “blitzchung” Ng Wai after he used a Blizzard tournament broadcast as a platform to support the ongoing Hong Kong protests. They also fired the commentators on the broadcast, despite them apparently doing nothing wrong.

People are upset over the action, seeing it as Blizzard putting profit before people’s civil right to democracy.

According to the Washington Post, these signs got these fans kicked out of a Philly NBA game

If you haven’t been following the HK protests, they started out as a response to an extradition treaty with China, and now the protesters are making 5 demands before they will back down:

  1. Full withdrawal of the extradition bill 徹底撤回送中修例
  2. A commission of inquiry into alleged police brutality 成立獨立調查委員會 追究警隊濫暴
  3. Retracting the classification of protesters as “rioters” 取消暴動定性
  4. Amnesty for arrested protesters 撤銷對今為所有反送中抗爭者控罪
  5. Dual universal suffrage, meaning for both the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive 以行政命令解散立法會 立即實行雙真普選

China is none too happy about the protesters, and appear to be using their influence over companies wallets to shut down resistance against itself.

In the past week, U.S. politicians and commentators have spoken out against Blizzard and other companies (NBA, Apple, Viacom, and more) who appear to be bowing to pressure from Beijing to minimize open support for the HK protests. All of this comes as China’s power in the entertainment and consumer space is expanding, so it is a logical extension of global capitalism.

In the past few years, memes have quickly become a cultural battleground, where political movements vie to appropriate the most popular formats and invent their own viral posts. Memes are a quick and shareable propaganda format, which can spread quickly across the entire internet. The best memes address a specific issue without demonstrating hatred and vitriol; this article is dedicated to those memes.

The memes which are being produced against Blizzard are getting massive upvotes and are important to examine as a modern tool of political advocacy and communication. Here are some of the most viral memes criticizing Blizzard’s affiliation with Chinese propaganda which have popped up on Reddit and other social media platforms.

Democracy Now Mei

Art by Yuumei

One of the most striking meme’s which has come out of this whole debacle is the appropriation of Mei as a symbol for the HK protests. Mei is a chinese environmental scientist in the story of Overwatch, one of Blizzard’s biggest properties. Artists such as Yuumei have produced incredible depictions of Mei wearing a facemask, which are currently banned in HK, with the symbols and mottos of the protest displayed prominently on her gear. She wields the umbrella, which is used by protesters to defend themselves against pepper spray and her robot has a hard hat which says “free HK” on it.

Other meme depictions of Mei include her wearing the colors and symbols of Hong Kong with slogans such as “Liberate Hong Kong.”

Art by Anonymous

The appropriation of Blizzard’s characters for protest is very interesting, and could actually lead to the banning of depictions of Mei in China — who has been known to ban images used to mock or deride them. Most notably, depictions of Winnie the Pooh are not allowed to be used in China because President Xi Jinping kind of looks like Winnie the Pooh, something people keep pointing out to his annoyance.

If Mei or Overwatch are banned in China as a result of the internet trolling, Blizzard’s plan to kiss China’s ring for money will have backfired.

Deleting Blizzard accounts

A large number of users are cancelling their Blizzard subscriptions in protest of Blizzards malfeasance, leading to a number of memes and viral posts which help people do that easily and quickly.

Other users are asking that you don’t delete your Blizzard accounts, and instead request personal information in order to backlog Blizzard. The post claims that if they don’t give the personal information within 30 days, the E.U. will fine Blizzard, costing them the precious money that drove their decision to ban blitzchung in the first place.

Mark Kern, who was a team lead for World of Warcraft, very publicly cancelled his subscription to a game he helped create. This backlash is the real deal, and Blizzard better start paying attention.

Traditional meme goodness

Along with some of these unique memes that a specific to the ongoing situation with Blizzard, China, and Hong Kong, there were also some classic meme formats on display. Here is a selection of some of the more clever and popular classic memes being used as advocacy against Blizzard.

User laylow_lofi posted this “company logo” for Blizzard, depicting them as part of the People’s Republic of China flag. This is a classic meme twist, combining two things in a way that criticizes both of them.

Meme by Laylow_lofi

Here is another classic meme, this one is the corporate meeting format. This is perfect for criticizing the corporate interests of Blizzard, and also does a good job of bringing up their hypocrisy in claiming to support the civil rights of gay characters while undermining freedom of expression globally.

This final meme speaks for itself, similarly criticizing Blizzard’s hypocrisy and the gap between their words and their deeds.

Don’t claim to protect expression and then not protect expression. The internet will get angry.

Head over to the Hong Kong, Blizzard, and Overwatch subreddits to see the ongoing backlash against Blizzard in real time!

Refuting incorrect discourse

A significant number of people posting memes and comments about the situation keep saying “fuck China.” This response seems to ignore the fact that Hong Kong is part of China. Now maybe they mean to criticize the Chinese government, but if so they probably should be more specific. When someone says “Fuck America” I don’t immediately assume they are talking about our federal government. Hong Kong is an autonomous region with their own government, but it is a one nation, two systems situation. So when you say fuck China, you are saying fuck Hong Kong. Maybe don’t?

I also noticed several viral posts that engage in racism, such as comparing president Xi to Winston, who is a monkey. This is a historically racist depiction of people of color as monkeys implying that they are less than human. It’s important to separate policies you disagree with from attacks on Chinese people and culture.

America is not much better than China

Speaking of attacks on the Chinese people and culture, the online community needs to reconsider its double standard between how they talk about China and how they talk about America. I support the protesters and believe in the right to free expression. However, the U.S. is hypocritical if it’s willing to call out China for being a violent, self-centered state and not recognize that our government functions very similarly.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that China is somehow an evil, immoral nation and that America is a shining city on a hill. Remember that America locks children in cages at our border, bans immigrants from Muslim nations, and has a huge problem with racist police violence . America has the highest level of incarceration in the world and since 2001 the U.S. has killed 507,000 people in the Middle East, many of them civilians, journalists, and humanitarian workers. As we speak, America is actively supporting Saudi Arabia’s genocidal campaign against Yemen.

America isn’t exactly an angel and we need to do better too.

Maybe we need to look at our priorities if we are willing to protest and boycott American companies who support China, but when American companies invade our privacy , suppress our expression , and work with our own problematic government we don’t say anything.

China has problems, we should call them out. America also has problems, we should call them out.

Originally published at https://www.proguides.com.



Aaron J. Alford

Media critique and memes. Writing about rhetoric and society. MA in Communication