In a letter Friday night, Netflix responded to several questions posed by a group of GOP senators about its upcoming TV series adaptation of the Chinese sci-fi trilogy “The Three-Body Problem,” after the series’ author appeared to express support for China’s treatment of the Uighur minority.
And the company’s main point: Liu Cixin, the trilogy’s author, is not the creator of the show.
On Wednesday, five Republican senators — Marsha Blackburn, Rick Scott, Kevin Cramer, Thom Tillis and Martha McSally — published an open letter to Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos asking him to “seriously reconsider” adapting Cixin’s series. At issue, a 2019 New Yorker interview with Liu, which only received widespread attention in September after Netflix announced the project, in which he defended policies — widespread concentration camps — that have been widely condemned by human rights activists.
“If anything, the government is helping their economy and trying to lift them out of poverty,” Liu told the New Yorker. “If you were to loosen up the country a bit, the consequences would be terrifying.”
According to PBS and multiple other reports, there are at least nine million Uyghurs being held in state-run concentration camps where prisoners are beaten, humiliated by before forced to violate halal dietary rules, and forced into slave labor. China’s government is also accused of operating a “mass rape” program against Uyghur women.
The senators’ letter also asked several questions, essentially demanding the company explain why it has not halted the project in light of Liu’s comments. In its response Friday night, Netflix answered every one of the questions, said it agreed that China’s oppression of the Uighurs is “unacceptable,” but also explained, again and again, that the TV series has absolutely no involvement from Liu.
“Netflix judges individual projects on their merits. Mr. Liu is the author of the book – The Three Body Problem – not the creator of this show. We do not agree with his comments, which are entirely unrelated to his book or this Netflix show,” Netflix said in one instance.
Much like the crackdown on what remains of Hong Kong’s autonomy, the treatment of Uighurs has sparked several Hollyw00d-related uproars thanks to the increasing involvement of Chinese companies in the American film industry. For instance, Disney suffered a serious public relations black eye after it was discovered that in the credits for its live action version of “Mulan,” it specifically thanked the state security agency that has overseen the brutal treatment of Uighurs.
Read Netflix’s response below:
Dear Senators Blackburn, Scott, Cramer, Tillis, and McSally:
Thank you for your letter from September 23, and your interest in the upcoming Netflix series adaptation based on The Three-Body Problem. First, we’d like to note that Netflix does not operate a service in China. We address your questions and concerns below:
Q: Does Netflix agree that the Chinese Communist Party’s interment of 1.8 to 3 million Uyghurs in internment or labor camps based on their ethnicity is unacceptable?
A: Absolutely. As the UN Declaration of Human Rights (which China has signed) states “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
Q: In order to avoid any further glorification of the CCP’s actions against the Uyghurs, or validation of the Chinese regime and agencies responsible for such acts, what steps will Netflix take to cast a critical eye on this project – to include the company’s broader relationship with Mr. Liu?
A: Mr. Liu is the author of the books, not the creator of this series. Mr. Liu’s comments are not reflective of the views of Netflix or of the show’s creators, nor are they part of the plot or themes of the show.
Q: Were Netflix senior executives aware of the statements made by Mr. Liu Cixin regarding the CCP’s genocidal acts prior to entering into an agreement to adapt his work? If so, please outline the reasoning that led Netflix to move forward with this project. If not, please describe Netflix’s standard process of due diligence and the gaps therein that led to this oversight.
A: Mr. Liu is a Chinese citizen living in China – he is the author of the books, not the creator of this Netflix series. The creators are David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creators of Game of Thrones, and Alexander Woo, executive producer/writer on the series True Blood.
Q: Does Netflix have a policy regarding entering into contracts with public-facing individuals who, either publicly or privately, promote principles inconsistent with Netflix’s company culture and principles? If so, please outline this policy. If not, please explain why not.
A: Netflix judges individual projects on their merits. Mr. Liu is the author of the book – The Three Body Problem – not the creator of this show. We do not agree with his comments, which are entirely unrelated to his book or this Netflix show.
Vice President, Global Public Policy