Call of Duty breaks records as publisher faces Hong Kong backlash

A mobile version of video game Call of Duty has been downloaded more than 100 million times in its first week.

However, a boycott aimed at the game’s publisher, Activision Blizzard, has been launched after Blizzard placed a 12-month ban on a Hearthstone gamer who staged an online protest over the political crisis in Hong Kong.

The hashtag #Blizzardboycott is now trending on Twitter.

Boycotters included Mark Kern, a developer who has worked for Blizzard.

“It’s done,” tweeted Mr Kern, with a screenshot suggesting he had just cancelled his subscription to World of Warcraft.

“Unless/until they completely reverse their stance on this issue (which, unfortunately, doesn’t seem likely) they will get no more money from me,” wrote one Reddit user in a long thread about the boycott.

The latest title in the hugely popular Call of Duty franchise has been well received by gamers, according to download statistics from Sensor Tower.

The company said the game, which was released on 1 October, had enjoyed the biggest mobile launch yet.

A PC and console title, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, is due to be released on 25 October.

Journalist Ian Miles Cheong tweeted he had previously pre-ordered the game but, having joined the boycott, had now requested a refund.

Activision Blizzard’s share price had fallen by 2.3% by the close of trading on Tuesday.

However, the backlash was unlikely to cause serious commercial problems for Activision Blizzard, said James Batchelor, UK Editor at GamesIndustry.biz.

“It’s negative PR and that’s never great for a company but I can’t remember an instance where a consumer-led boycott has led to a significant drop in sales in the video games industry,” he told the BBC.

“These games have such a vast audience that I would almost say almost half don’t even know what’s happening… The vast majority of Call of Duty players are so casual, so mainstream.”

BBC News has contacted Activision Blizzard for comment.

Why are some gamers angry with Blizzard?

Ng Wai Chung is the name of the gamer banned for 12 months by Blizzard. He uses the pseudonym Blitzchung.

During a post-match interview on the official Hearthstone Taiwan video stream, he donned a gas mask and shouted: “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age.”

Blizzard said tournament rules said players must not offend people or damage the company’s image.

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Other US technology have become embroiled in the controversy over Hong Kong.

China’s state media this week criticised Apple for listing an app in its app store designed to track the movements of police officers in Hong Kong.

The People’s Daily newspaper said the app was an endorsement for “rioters”.

The tool, HKmap.live, was not named explicitly by the newspaper.

It works by asking users to cite the locations of police and anti-government protesters. This data is then displayed on a map.

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BBC News – Technology

Hong Kong leader bans masks, fuelling protesters’ rage

Hong Kong — Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam banned protesters from wearing masks Friday in a hardening of the government’s stance on the territory’s most disruptive crisis since it reverted to Chinese rule in 1997. Lam announced the ban at an afternoon news conference where she decried a recent escalation of violence after four months of anti-government demonstrations.

The mask ban, imposed under a colonial-era Emergency Ordinance, takes effect Saturday and applies to people at “illegal” gatherings who use violence and exempts those who wear masks for “legitimate need.” Lam said she would go to the legislature later to get legal backing for the rule.

CBS News correspondent Ramy Inocencio said Lam invoked the Emergency Ordinance but insisted it “does not mean Hong Kong is in a state of emergency.” She said the decision was made with an objective “to end violence and return to peace.”

“People are asking can Hong Kong go back to normal? Is Hong Kong still a place where we can have our sweet home?” Lam said as she announced the ban. “We must stop the violence,” she said. “Now, it’s all over Hong Kong.”

She said the ban targets violent protesters and rioters and “will be an effective deterrent to radical behavior.”

The ban makes the wearing of full or partial face coverings, including face paint, at unauthorized gatherings punishable by one year in jail. A six-month jail term could be imposed on people who refuse a police officer’s order to remove a face covering for identification.

But even before she announced the move, it was already fuelling the anger on the streets.

Anti-Government Protests Continue in Hong Kong
Pro-democracy protesters take part in a rally in Hong Kong’s Central district on October 4, 2019. Getty

Thousands of masked protesters chanted slogans calling for greater democracy as they marched in the city’s business district before Lam spoke. They chanted “I want to wear face masks” and “Wearing mask is not a crime” as many cars, stuck in traffic due to the march, honked in support.

“Will they arrest 100,000 people on the street? The government is trying to intimidate us but at this moment, I don’t think the people will be scared,” one protester, who gave his surname as Lui, told an online live broadcast.

There were protests specifically against the mask ban across the semi-autonomous Chinese territory on Friday.

Asked by Inocencio whether her administration had come under pressure from Beijing to enact the mask ban, Lam insisted there was “no such thing” as “approval” by the central Chinese government for her to make such decisions. Many Hong Kongers view Lam, who was appointed by Beijing, as little more than an instrument of the Chinese government’s power — a view she has been at pains to dispel since the protests began.

Lam wouldn’t rule out a further toughening of measures if violence continues. She said she would not resign because “stepping down is not something that will help the situation” when Hong Kong is facing “a very critical state of public danger.”

“We must save Hong Kong, the present Hong Kong and the future Hong Kong,” she said. “We can’t just leave the situation to get worse and worse.”

Chaos continues in Hong Kong as protesters and police clash

Analysts said the use of the Emergency Ordinance for the first time in over half a century set a dangerous precedent. The law, a relic of British rule enacted in 1922 to quell a seamen’s strike and last used to crush riots in 1967, gives broad powers to the city’s chief executive to implement regulations in an emergency.

“Even though the mask ban is just a small move under the Emergency Ordinance, it is a dangerous first step. If the anti-mask legislation proves to be ineffective, it could lead the way to more draconian measures such as a curfew and other infringement of civil liberties,” said Willy Lam, adjunct professor at the Chinese University.

The ban followed widespread violence in the city Tuesday that marred China’s National Day and included a police officer shooting a protester, the first victim of gunfire since the protests started in June over a now-shelved extradition bill. The wounded teenager was charged with attacking police and rioting.

The movement has snowballed into an anti-China campaign amid anger over what many view as Beijing’s interference in Hong Kong’s autonomy. More than 1,750 people have been detained so far.

Activists and many legislators have said the mask ban could be counterproductive, impractical and difficult to enforce in a city bubbling with anger and where tens of thousands have often defied police bans on rallies.

The government last month withdrew the extradition bill, widely slammed as an example of the erosion of Hong Kong’s freedom, but protesters have widened their demands to include direct elections of the city’s leaders, an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, the unconditional release of protesters and not characterizing the protests as riots.

“Five demands, not one less!” many protesters shouted during Friday’s rallies as they held up five fingers.

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Hong Kong – protesters arrested

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Hong Kong media report police have fired a warning shot

Demonstrations continued in HK over the weekend, with reports of police firing a shot for the first time.

  • Police have used tear gas and water cannons
  • Protesters are said to have thrown what appeared to be a petrol bomb

Note – media reports of shot – not confirmed. Same for the petrol bomb – unconfirmed. 

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Hong Kong Airport have obtained an injunction to stop protestors obstructing movement

Hong Kong Airport have obtained an injunction to stop protestors obstructing movement

After two days of basically closing down the airport, efforts to restrain protestors doing so again:

  • Airport Authority Hong Kong has obtained an interim injunction to restrain persons from unlawfully and wilfully obstructing or interfering with the proper use of Hong Kong International Airport
  • Persons are also restrained from attending or participating in any demonstration or protest or public order event in the Airport other than in the area designated by the Airport Authority

Will that be enough?

After two days of basically closing down the airport, efforts to restrain protestors doing so again:

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Defiant Hong Kong protesters choke newly reopened airport

Unrest In Hong Kong During Anti-Government Protests
Protesters occupy the departure hall of the Hong Kong International Airport during a demonstration on August 13, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Getty

Hong Kong — Protesters clogged the departure area at Hong Kong’s reopened airport Tuesday, a day after they forced one of the world’s busiest transport hubs to shut down entirely amid their calls for an independent inquiry into alleged police abuse. More than 100 flights were cancelled as thousands of protesters occupied the airport’s main terminal for the fifth consecutive day.

Flagship carrier Cathay Pacific said in a statement that it had been “informed by the Airport Authority in Hong Kong that all check-in has been suspended as a result of the public assembly at Hong Kong International Airport, which is ongoing. There is potential for further flight disruptions at short notice.”

CBS News producer Chris Liable said all scheduled flights not already checked in were cancelled, and protesters were also blocking the departure lines at immigration, so nobody was able to get through there — something the protesters hadn’t done previously.

After filling up two separate arrivals halls, demonstrators streamed into the departure area despite increased security measures designed to keep them out. Passengers struggled to get past the sitting protesters and into the immigration section.

Some flights were able to take off earlier Tuesday, relieving some of the pressure from Monday’s cancellation of more than 200 flights.

An “existential threat”?

The central government in Beijing ominously characterized the protest movement as something approaching “terrorism” that posed an “existential threat” to the local citizenry.

Hong Kong airport reopens after protests

Meanwhile, paramilitary police were assembling across the border in the city of Shenzhen for exercises in what some saw as a threat to increase force brought against the mostly young protesters who have turned out in their thousands over the past 10 weeks.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the ongoing instability, chaos and violence have placed the city on a “path of no return.”

The demonstrators have shown no sign of letting up on their campaign to force Lam’s administration to respond to their demands, including that she step down and entirely scrap legislation that could have seen criminal suspects sent to mainland China to face torture and unfair or politically charged trials.

While Beijing tends to define terrorism broadly, extending it especially to nonviolent movements opposing government policies in minority regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang, the government’s usage of the term in relation to Hong Kong raised the prospect of greater violence and the possible suspension of legal rights for those detained.

While China has yet to threaten sending in the army — as it did against pro-democracy protesters in Beijing in 1989 — the exercises in Shenzhen were a further demonstration of its ability to crush the demonstrations, even at the cost to Hong Kong’s reputation as a safe haven for business and international exchange.

Images posted online showed armored personnel carriers belonging to the People’s Armed Police driving in convoy Monday toward the location of the exercises, just across the border from Hong Kong.

The People’s Liberation Army also has a garrison in Hong Kong, which recently released a video showing its units combating actors dressed as protesters. The Hong Kong police on Monday also put on a display of armored car-mounted water cannons that it plans to deploy by the middle of the month.

“Credible evidence” of police violations

Demonstrators have in recent days focused on their demand for an independent inquiry into what they call the police’s abuse of power and negligence. That followed reports and circulating video footage of violent arrests and injuries sustained by protesters.

Hong Kong protests paralyze one of Asia’s busiest airports

On Tuesday, United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet urged Kong Kong authorities to investigate what she called “credible evidence” suggesting law enforcement officers had fired tear gas at protesters in ways that violate international law. Videos have emerged showing police firing gas and beanbag rounds at close range.

Some protesters have thrown bricks, eggs and flaming objects at police stations and police said they arrested another 149 demonstrators over the weekend, bringing the total to more than 700 since early June. Police say several officers have suffered burns, bruises and eye damage inflicted by protesters.

Lam told reporters Tuesday that dialogue would only begin when the violence stopped. She reiterated her support for the police and said they have had to make on-the-spot decisions under difficult circumstances, using “the lowest level of force.”

“After the violence has been stopped, and the chaotic situation that we are seeing could subside,” Lam said, “I as the chief executive will be responsible to rebuild Hong Kong’s economy … to help Hong Kong to move on.”

She did not elaborate on what steps her government will take toward reconciliation. After two months, the protests have become increasingly divisive and prompted clashes across the city.

Hong Kong hit where it hurts

The airport shutdown added to what authorities say is already a major blow to the financial hub’s crucial tourism industry.

Kerry Dickinson, a traveler from South Africa, said she had trouble getting her luggage Tuesday morning.

“I don’t think I will ever fly to Hong Kong again,” she said.

The protests early on were staged in specific neighborhoods near government offices. However, the airport protest was had a direct impact on business travel and tourism. Analysts said it could make foreign investors think twice about setting up shop in Hong Kong, which has long prided itself as being Asia’s leading business city with convenient air links across the region.

The black-clad protesters Tuesday held up signs in Simplified Chinese and English to appeal to travelers from mainland China and other parts of the world. “Democracy is a good thing,” said one sign in Simplified Chinese characters, which are used in mainland China instead of the Traditional Chinese script of Hong Kong.

Adding to the protesters’ anger, Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways told employees in a memo that the carrier has a “zero tolerance” for employees joining “illegal protests” and warned violators could be fired.

Hong Kong was promised democratic rights not enjoyed in Communist Party-ruled mainland China when Beijing took over what had been a British colony in 1997, but some have accused Beijing of steadily eroding their freedoms. Those doubts are fueling the protests, which build on a previous opposition movement that shut down much of the city for seven weeks in 2014 that eventually fizzled out and whose leaders have been imprisoned.

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Hong Kong braces for another weekend of protests

© Reuters. Anti-extradition bill demonstrators attend a protest at the arrival hall of Hong Kong Airport © Reuters. Anti-extradition bill demonstrators attend a protest at the arrival hall of Hong Kong Airport

By Clare Jim and Kevin Liu

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong began another volatile weekend on Saturday, with anti-government protests taking place across the city, including one at the international airport for a second day.

Increasingly violent protests have plunged Hong Kong into its most serious political crisis for decades, posing a serious challenge to the central government in Beijing.

Protesters arrived back at Hong Kong’s airport, a day after a peaceful gathering there of about 1,000 activists. Neither protest disrupted flights.

Hundreds of activists occupied the arrivals hall on Saturday, some of them sitting on the floor drawing protest posters, while others politely greeted arriving passengers.

In the morning, in two separate protests, small groups of elderly Hong Kongers and families marched near the financial center’s business district. Both marches were peaceful.

About a thousand protesters also gathered later in the day in Tai Po, a town in the north of the territory.

Leung Wai Man, a housewife in her 60s, said she had been motivated to march in Tai Po because she was angry about what she saw as the violent response by police at some protests.

“We are very angry about the police arresting our teenagers,” she said. She said she was worried about escalating violence, but added that “the protesters were just trying to protect themselves against police violence.”

Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam said on Friday the economy was being undermined by the protests, which began in June.

China, meanwhile, demanded that the city’s flag carrier Cathay Pacific Airways (HK:) suspend staff involved in the demonstrations. One of its pilots was arrested last week.

Huarong International, the investment arm in Hong Kong of China Huarong Asset Management Co (HK:), has instructed staff not to fly Cathay Pacific if there are other options, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters and confirmed by a source at the company.

Lam’s warning about the economy and China’s targeting of a key Hong Kong business mark a toughening stance by authorities as they grapple with Hong Kong’s deepest crisis in decades.

Young people have been at the forefront of the protests, worried about the erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong by China but also concerned with issues such as wealth disparities in the city.

However, older people and parents have also been appearing at the protests.

“There are clashes in the recent protests and many parents are worried,” said Fion Yim, 35, representative of the organizing committee for what was billed as the family protest.

“The freedom to protect our children is very important. We hope to provide a safer place for parents and their kids to participate in rallies, and to voice their concerns.”

The protests began after Hong Kong’s government tried introducing an extradition bill that would have allowed defendants to be sent to mainland China for trial.

The bill has been suspended, but protesters have stepped up their demands and are now calling for greater democracy and Lam’s resignation.

The protests have been condemned by the central government in Beijing. China has also accused foreign powers of fueling the unrest.

Hong Kong was guaranteed freedoms not granted in mainland China, including an independent judiciary, under a “one country, two systems” formula, when Britain handed it back to China in 1997.

On Friday, the U.S. State department spokeswoman, Morgan Ortagus, said that Chinese media reports about a U.S. diplomat who met with Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders “have gone from irresponsible to dangerous” and must stop.

Ortagus earlier called China a “thuggish regime” for disclosing photographs and personal details of the diplomat.

More protests are planned for Sunday, including one in Sham Shui Po, a working class neighborhood that has been the scene of violent confrontations between activists and police.

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Beijing officials condemn Hong Kong protests in rare press conference

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Violence escalates between Hong Kong police and protesters

Clashes involving Hong Kong’s protest movement escalated violently late Sunday as police launched tear gas at protesters who didn’t disband after a massive march and subway riders were attacked by masked assailants who appeared to target the pro-democracy demonstrators.

The firing of tear gas was the latest confrontation between police and protesters who have taken to the streets for almost two months to fight a proposed extradition bill and call for electoral reforms in the Chinese territory.

The march had been peaceful when it reached its police-designated end point in Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district in the late afternoon, but thousands continued onward, at various points occupying key government and business districts. They then headed for the Liaison Office, which represents China’s Communist Party-led central government within the city.

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Protesters threw eggs at the building and spray-painted its surrounding surveillance cameras. China’s national emblem, which adorns the front of the Liaison Office, was splattered with black ink. The Liaison Office said in comments published on Chinese state media that the acts “openly challenged the authority of the central government and touched the bottom line of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle.”

Later, police threw tear gas canisters at protesters to try to disperse them. Protesters scattered, some heading back in the direction of a key business and retail district. Police remained in place, protecting themselves with shields. Police said on their official social media accounts that protesters threw bricks and petrol bombs at them and attacked the Central police station.

Hong Kong Protests
Protesters react to teargas as they confront riot police officers in Hong Kong on Sunday, July 21, 2019. Protesters in Hong Kong pressed on Sunday past the designated end point for a march in which tens of thousands repeated demands for direct elections in the Chinese territory and an independent investigation into police tactics used in previous demonstrations. Vincent Yu / AP

Hong Kong media released video showing masked assailants attacking commuters in a subway station. Among those attacked were protesters clad in their trademark black clothing and yellow hard hats.

The attackers, meanwhile, were dressed in white with black masks pulled over their heads. On Saturday, demonstrators wore white at a counter-rally in support of police.

The Hong Kong government said in a statement shortly after midnight that commuters were attacked at a subway station in the city’s Yuen Long neighborhood, leading to “confrontations and injuries.”

The statement also said some “radical protesters initiated a series of violent acts … despite repeated warnings” by police. They said the acts included hurling petrol bombs, setting fires and throwing bricks.

Organizers said 430,000 people participated in Sunday’s march, while police said there were 138,000 during the procession’s “peak period.”

Large protests began early last month in opposition to a contentious extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to stand trial in mainland China, where critics say their rights would be compromised.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has declared the extradition bill dead, but protesters are dissatisfied with her refusal to formally withdraw the legislation. Some are also calling for her to resign amid growing concerns about the steady erosion of civil rights in the city.

While the demonstrations have been largely peaceful, some confrontations between police and protesters have turned violent. In Sha Tin district the previous Sunday, they beat each other with umbrellas and bats inside a luxury shopping center. Demonstrators broke into the Legislative Council building on July 1 by moving past barricades and shattering windows.

On Friday, Hong Kong police discovered a stash of a powerful homemade explosive in a commercial building and arrested a man. Materials voicing opposition to the extradition bill were found at the site, local media said, but a police spokesman said no concrete link had been established and the investigation was continuing.

The People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, condemned “radical extremists” who attacked the legislature and “trampled” on Hong Kong’s rule of law in a front-page column Sunday. The paper said the counter-rally Saturday intended to show support for the police reflected “mainstream public opinion” in Hong Kong.

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