Tencent owner Pony Ma caught in BGMI/PUBG ban crossfire in India

New Delhi: The reclusive Chinese billionaire Pony Ma has waded into the controversy surrounding the demand for a ban on PUBG/BGMI in India.

PRAHAR, an NGO, that called for a ban on the addictive game BGMI, which was seconded by the RSS backed Swadeshi Jagran Manch, has shot off an open letter to Pony Ma, the owner of Chinese tech giant Tencent. In the letter, the NGO has dared Pony Ma asking him to disclose his full stake in Krafton, the company behind BGMI.

In the letter, the NGO said: “Your vast empire stretches across the world and you are particularly known for your strategy of picking up significant stakes in gaming companies and ruling them by stealth. These puppet companies are then unleashed across the world to circumvent any restrictions that a country may place on Tencent.”

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Prahar had earlier written to the Home Minister and IT Minister, calling for a ban on BGMI under section 69A of the Information Technology Act, as it poses a threat to the sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, and public order.

In its latest salvo, the NGO has shot off ten questions to Pony Ma seeking answers to multiple questions around the actual ownership of Krafton, the deep relationship between Tencent and Krafton and threat to India’s national security.

On the origin of the game, Prahar asked “Can you deny that PUBG mobile (called BGMI in India) was first developed by Lightspeed & Quantum which is an internal division of Tencent?”

It further brought out that Tencent’s Game for Peace was developed by Krafton and is a replica of PUBG focused on the Chinese Air Force. It asked Pony Ma to deny the fact that PUBG, BGMI and Game for Peace have the same core gameplay, graphic design, characters and all the three games are essentially the same with cosmetic changes to hoodwink the regulatory authorities.

According to Research firm Sensor Tower in November 2021, PUBG/ Game for Peace is Tencent’s highest selling mobile game with over $7 billion in lifetime player spending across the App Store and Google Play.

The NGO also asked Pony Ma to deny Tencent’s association with PUBG mobile in Pakistan.

Tencent Games continues to publish and runs PUBG mobile in Pakistan. It is also a sponsor of Lahore Qalandars, a franchise of the Pakistan Super League (PSL).

The NGO further said that while Tencent directly holds a 15 per cent stake in Krafton, it indirectly holds a much larger stake and has asked Pony Ma to transparently disclose his entire indirect stake in the company.

It further asked the Chinese billionaire to answer if in 2020, Citizen Lab, a research centre of the University of Toronto, said that Tencent has been surveilling content posted by foreign users on its messaging app WeChat in order to help Chinese government censorship.

Prahar in its letter also asked Ma: “The privacy policy of BGMI expressly allows user data to be shared with third parties whose solutions are used in the game. Is it true that BGMI uses third party solutions from entities affiliated with Tencent?”

Earlier Ashwani Mahajan, the National Co-convener of the RSS-affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) had urged the government to thoroughly investigate “the antecedents and China influence” of the controversial BGMI-PUBG app.

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