John Naughton: Western tech giants must stop kowtowing to China’s bullying | John Naughton

Market access matters more than Beijing’s abuses as companies outdo each other in their deference

It has been a bad few weeks for anyone wanting to express approval for Hong Kong protesters online. A player of the Hearthstone online game, for example, ended a stream with a statement of support for those engaged in the protests against local police and government. While doing so, he wore a mask similar to the ones worn by many protesters. Blizzard, the owner of the game, was not amused: the player was immediately removed and banned from participation in Hearthstone esports for 12 months.

In another case, Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team, tweeted – and quickly deleted – a message in support of Hong Kong’s protesters. It seems that the National Basketball Association was alarmed by the furore this caused in China, where there is a huge following for US basketball. Eventually, the tweet was restored after some US politicians became exercised about the curbing of free speech in their jurisdiction. But the point was made: don’t annoy the Chinese.

Recent developments show how fear of losing out can intimidate people and corporations

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