Hong Kong protests lead to cancellation of Street Fighter V esports tournament
Capcom Pro Tour cancels Hong Kong leg as esports industry takes a hit from unrest that has roiled the city
Hong Kong has been trying to set itself up as a world-class esports destination, but the fallout from the city’s anti-government protests are hitting the industry. Capcom announced on Tuesday that it canceled its premier Street Fighter V tournament in Hong Kong.
One of the stops of this year’s Capcom Pro Tour was scheduled to be at Esports Festival Hong Kong later this month. Capcom says it removed the stop from the tour because of the city’s “civic unrest,” which has grown more violent in recent weeks.
Over the last two months, hundreds of thousands of people have protested against a now-suspended bill that would allow fugitives in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China, raising fears of prosecution for political crimes. In recent weeks, the numbers have dwindled, but thousands of protesters still turned up in the streets each weekend, leading to clashes with police and alleged gang members.
As the violence has escalated, some countries have issued travel warnings, including Japan, Singapore, Australia and the UK. Capcom, based in Osaka, Japan, said it “takes the safety of our players and community very seriously.”
Hong Kong company Cyber Games Arena, which was supposed to host the event, said that it would still stage a Street Fighter event on the scheduled dates, but it wouldn’t be affiliated with the Capcom Pro Tour.
“This is the first time an esports event is being affected by the protests,” said Ryan Chow, CEO of Cyber Games Arena. “We certainly hope that the protests will end soon.”
While the blow to the upcoming esports festival may disappoint the city’s gaming community, it appears some gamers have also been involved with the with the protests. Gaming-related tech has been co-opted to help organize and spread information about the protests.
When the Hong Kong police denied protesters permission to march in one of the city’s suburban neighbourhoods on safety grounds, the protesters still showed up -- but they organized it as a Pokémon Go event.
Twitch has also been a reliable tool for streaming content related to the protests. If you log into the game live streaming site on the day of a protest, you’ll likely find many streamers from Hong Kong broadcasting the protests as they happen, although it’s often just feeds from television stations.
Twitch reportedly banned one streamer for live streaming the protests because the person didn’t have licenses to broadcast the content. Twitch also said discussions in the chatroom of the stream went “over the line.”