Senators Demand Answers from Netflix CEO over Writer ‘Parroting Dangerous Chinese Communist Party Propaganda’

Ted Sarandos
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images/Netflix

Netflix, which is still dealing with the firestorm from its underage twerking movie Cuties, is back in the Congressional hot seat over its partnership with a writer from mainland China who has defended the Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

A group of senators led by Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is demanding that Netflix explain why it is teaming up with novelist Liu Cixin to turn his bestselling science-fiction trilogy The Three-Body Problem into a live-action series. Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are leading the project, along with Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment.

Sen. Blackburn sent a letter to Netflix on Thursday together with Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND). The letter warned Netflix that its association with Liu amounts to a form of corporate complicity in China’s treatment of Uyghurs, more than million of whom are believed to have been put in internment camps and subjected to abuse, including forced labor and sterilization.

“While Congress seriously considers the systemic crimes carried out against the Uyghurs, we have significant concerns with Netflix’s decision to do business with an individual who is parroting dangerous CCP propaganda,” the senators said. “In the face of such atrocities in XUAR [Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region], there no longer exist corporate decisions of complacency, only complicity.”

The senators added: “We ask Netflix to seriously reconsider the implications of providing a platform to Mr. Liu in producing this project.”

At the heart of the controversy are comments that Liu made in an interview with the New Yorker magazine last year. When he was asked about the mass internment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, he replied, “Would you rather that they be hacking away at bodies at train stations and schools in terrorist attacks?”

He added: “If anything, the government is helping their economy and trying to lift them out of poverty…If you were to loosen up the country a bit, the consequences would be terrifying.”

The senators are asking Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos to answer four questions, including whether Netflix agrees that the internment of millions of Uyghurs is “unacceptable.”

1. 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?

2. 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.

3. Does Netflix have a policy regarding entering into contracts with public-facing individuals who, either publically or privately, promote principles inconsistent with Netflix’s company culture and principles? If so, please outline this policy. If not, please explain why not.

4. 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?

While Netflix isn’t available to Chinese consumers due to Beijing’s streaming regulations, the company offers Chinese movies and TV shows on its platform.

The Walt Disney Co. is also facing Congressional scrutiny over its live-action movie Mulan, which was partly shot in Xinjiang. In the movie’s final credits, the studio thanks an official Chinese government security bureau linked to Uyghur concentration camps.

Mulan has drawn scrutiny from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who is accusing Disney of  “whitewashing genocide” for its collaboration with China’s secret police.

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