While protests still rage on the streets of Hong Kong over a new extradition bill, gamers have found that in Grand Theft Auto V Online there is a way to dress characters as Hong Kong protesters with the “Diamond Casino Heist” update. Protesters spread the word through LIHKG, a forum service much like Reddit. Players took to dubbing the outfit “Glory to Hong Kong” and implored players to join a crew in the game called “Stand with Hong Kong.”
Abacus News, a Hong Kong-based news source, was the first to catch wind of the story. Protesters took to the streets of Los Santos, violently firebombing police vehicles and partaking in violent actions across the fictional city. The in-game violence got a response from gamers who support mainland China and Chinese government sympathizers who responded by wearing riot clothing and driving armored riot vehicles with water cannons.
The confrontation ultimately broke out into a full-scale conflict. Very little was being held back, as Los Santos erupted into a virtual war. Eventually, Mainland China-aligned gamers started logging into GTA Online en masse. With overwhelming numbers, the Chinese-sympathizing gamers did win the day. The hostility carried onto various social media with each side accusing each other of starting the fight. Hong Kong-supporting players expressed their anger at not having more players joining the struggle.
“I don’t blame you for not having the balls to throw petrol bombs at the police in reality. But in the game there are guns and rocket launchers, and you don’t have the balls to kill those Shina gamers?” one person wrote, which has become the most popular comment on that thread. “Shina” is a derogatory word often used in reference to Chinese people. Other commentators and players are expecting more skirmishes across GTA Online, while others are hoping to keep politics out of the game.
Grand Theft Auto V has yet to be approved by the Chinese Government because the game includes depictions of drug use, violence and sexual acts, but it can be downloaded in Hong Kong and in China by passing through a few loopholes. This event could possibly lead China into taking action against GTA by closing the loopholes or outright blocking Rockstar’s products.