Netflix Defends Partnering with Chinese Novelist Who Defended Beijing’s Internment of Muslim Uyghurs

Dean Garfield, President and CEO of Information Technology Industry Council, listens during a discussion at the Reagan Building October 30, 2013 in Washington, DC. The discussion, sponsored by Bloomberg Government, focus on the costs and benefits of cyber security. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty …

Netflix is justifying its decision to partner with Chinese novelist Liu Cixin after a group of Republican senators led by Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) demanded the streamer explain why it would do business with someone who has defended China’s abusive treatment of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

In a letter this week, the senators questioned why Netflix is teaming up with Liu to turn his bestselling sci-fi trilogy The Three-Body Problem into a live-action series, with Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss leading the project.

Last year, Liu said in a New Yorker interview that the Chinese Communist Party is right to place Uyghurs into internment camps. “Would you rather that they be hacking away at bodies at train stations and schools in terrorist attacks?” he said. “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.”

In a response to the senators, Netflix’s head of global public policy Dean Garfield said that while the streamer doesn’t agree with Liu’s comments, his beliefs have no bearing on the planned sci-fi series.

“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,” Garfield wrote in a letter obtained by Variety.

“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 didn’t say if or how much it is paying Liu for the rights to his novels, or if Liu will have any creative input into the series.

The senators said in their letter this week that by teaming up with Liu, Netflix risks being complicit with China in its human rights abuses.

“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.”

In addition to Sen. Blackburn, the letter was co-signed by Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND).

Netflix has a production deal with Barack and Michelle Obama, though the planned series doesn’t appear to be part of that deal. Former Obama national security advisor Susan Rice sits on Netflix’s board of directors.

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