Corporate censorship for Chinese benefit should not be tolerated
Anybody who has followed the news in any capacity in recent years has probably been hearing about the same thing over and over again: China. The country’s expeditious rise as the dominant, global, economic superpower, while not a shock to many, has left many businesses scrambling to establish footing in their markets.
But with China’s strict censorship laws and twitchy trigger finger, anxiously awaiting the chance to ban anything which may paint its government in a negative light, companies have been bending over backward to appease the Chinese Communist Party and gain its favor.
The moral cost of doing this has created a new norm that should not be tolerated.
On Oct. 6, Ng “Blitzchung” Wai Chung, a pro player of the video game “Hearthstone” from Hong Kong, spoke out about the current protests while being interviewed on a competition livestream.
In response, Activision Blizzard, the company that owns the game, banned Chung from playing the game competitively for an entire year and denied him any prize money from the competition, citing a rule that disallows discussion of anything that will offend any group of people.
Public opinion has branded the company as Chinese bootlickers, taking specific note of Chinese tech company Tencent’s 5 percent equity in the company.
Fortunately, Activision Blizzard has since reduced the ban time by half and awarded Chung his money. But it’s too little, too late for the company, as its reputation has been permanently soiled. Many users have already begun deleting their accounts with the company’s services, and several employees staged a walkout in retaliation. People are clearly upset about this, and rightfully so.
In local news, the Houston Rockets have been entangled in this, too. Daryl Morey, the team’s general manager, made a now-deleted tweet in support of the Hong Kong protesters. This significantly damaged the NBA’s reputation with China.
Despite the company’s best efforts toward damage control, promotional activities have ceased and Rockets merchandise is being pulled from store shelves in the country, all because of a simple tweet.
Activision Blizzard and the NBA aren’t the only companies that bend to the will of the Chinese Communist Party. In fact, they’re far from it.
Countless companies have been quick to apologize over the slightest misstep. These missteps have ranged from seemingly innocuous transgressions, such as listing Macau, Taiwan or Hong Kong as independent countries or simply featuring quotes of the Dalai Lama, to more overt issues, like showing support for the democracy-seeking protesters in Hong Kong.
The subservience demonstrated by these companies is morally reprehensible. The Chinese Communist Party, which isn’t actually communist, has a notable history of severe encroachment of human rights and is currently continuing that trend by committing a literal holocaust against minority groups in the country. This isn’t even the first time something like this has happened.
Anybody who cares at all about this probably believes there isn’t much that can be done about it, but that’s not true. These companies are supporting China and its policies through their practices for one reason: money.
A boycott of the companies’ products and services would send the message that local consumers take issue with the idea of selling out to corrupt, totalitarian dictatorships. There’s no way they’d risk losing local markets in favor of securing footing in a foreign market, hopefully.
So please, consider refraining from supporting any company that’s been caught censoring its products or employees over this issue. Atrocities are being committed to millions of people right now, and Western companies should not be willing to side with the group perpetrating them.
A line must be drawn in the sand somewhere, and if it’s not at least at literal, actual genocide, then there’s something seriously wrong with what’s going on.
Opinion writer Kyle Dishongh is a finance junior and can be reached at [email protected]