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GOP Senators demand Netflix cancel The Three-Body Problem over author's comments on Uighur Muslims

'Does Netflix agree that the Chinese Communist Party's internment of 1.8 to 3 million Uyghurs in internment or labor camps based on their ethnicity is unacceptable?' the senators wrote.  

Graig Graziosi
Saturday 26 September 2020 22:26 BST
US sanctions Chinese officials over Uighur concentration camps

A group of Republican senators have sent Netflix's chief content officer and co-CEO Ted Sarandos a letter criticising the streaming service's upcoming adaptation of The Three-Body Problem.  

The series, based on Liu Cixin's science-fiction trilogy of the same name, will be led by Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and DB Weiss. Rian Johnson and Rosamund Pike are producing the series and Alexander Woo is writing.  

According to Decider, the senators' letter accused the streaming service of "normalising" the imprisonment of Uighur Muslims in China's Xinjiang province.  

The crux of the senators' argument is rooteed in a 2019 article in The New Yorker in which Mr Liu expressed approval over the treatment of the Muslim minority group.  

“Would you rather that they be hacking away at bodies at train stations and schools in terrorist attacks? If anything, the government is helping their economy and trying to lift them out of poverty,” he wrote.  

The article's author, Jiayang Fan, wrote that the response "duplicated government propaganda so exactly that I couldn't help asking Liu if he ever thought he might be brainwashed."

"'I know what you are thinking,' he told me with weary clarity. 'What about individual liberty and freedom of governance?' He sighed, as if exhausted by a debate going on in his head. 'But that’s not what Chinese people care about. For ordinary folks, it’s the cost of health care, real-estate prices, their children’s education. Not democracy,'" she wrote.  

The letter was signed by Senators Martha McSally, Marsha Blackburn, Rick Scott, Kevin Cramer and Thom Tillis. In the letter, the senators advised Netflix to rethink its relationship with Mr Liu due to his comments.  

"Does Netflix agree that the Chinese Communist Party's internment of 1.8 to 3 million Uyghurs in internment or labor camps based on their ethnicity is unacceptable?" the senators wrote.  

“Netflix’s company culture statement asserts that ‘Entertainment, like friendship, is a fundamental human need; it changes how we feel and gives us common ground,’” the letter concludes. “This statement is a beautiful summary of the value of the American entertainment industry, which possesses innovation largely unmatched in the global market. We ask Netflix to seriously reconsider the implications of providing a platform to Mr. Liu in producing this project.”

Disney also came under fire for producing media that critics argued overlooked the Chinese treatment of Uighurs.  

Parts of Disney's live-adaptation of Mulan were filmed in the Xinjiang province. The movie's credits also feature a "special thanks" to the "publicity department of CPC Xinjiang Uighur Autonomy Region Committee" and to the public security bureau in the city of Turpan, where detainment centres are reported to be located.  

Mr Liu became the first writer in Asia to win a Hugo Award, literature's top prize for science-fiction writing, for The Three-Body Problem. The book's narrative revolves around humans making contact with aliens during the Cultural Revolution, and the split between humans who welcome their invasion and those who want to resist.

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