Netflix's Three-Body Problem Decried by U.S. Senators Over Liu Cixin's Muslim Commentary

Netflix’s take on The Three-Body Problem might be hitting some controversial snags.
Netflix’s take on The Three-Body Problem might be hitting some controversial snags.
Image: Tor Books

Earlier this month, Netflix announced that Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss would partner with The Terror: Infamy’s Alexander Woo to adapt the beloved, Hugo-winning Chinese sci-fi epic The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin. But now, the company is facing calls from a cadre of Republicans demanding the show be scrapped.

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Variety reports that earlier today five Republican members of the U.S. Senate, lead by Tennessee’s would-be Section 230 tinkerer Marsha Blackburn, sent a letter to Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos to complain about the company’s adaptation of Liu’s work—which the author will oversee alongside Three-Body Problem translator Ken Liu as consulting producers. The complaints largely stem from commentary made by Liu Cixin in a June 2019 New Yorker interview, as the full scope of international awareness over the Xinjiang region’s horrifying treatment of Uighur Muslims was beginning to become apparent.

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When pressed by New Yorker writer Jiayang Fan about the internment of Uighurs in the province, Liu Cixin regurgitated the Chinese Communist Party’s talking points about the crisis—which has seen the government surreptitiously monitor millions of Muslims and place them into internment camps for “re-education” and assimilation into Chinese society, as well as allegedly face forced sterilization—saying, “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.”

In light of Liu’s full-throated support for the Chinese government, Blackburn and her fellow senators have questioned the decision to bring The Three-Body Problem to the West. “We have significant concerns with Netflix’s decision to do business with an individual who is parroting dangerous CCP propaganda,” the senatorial letter reads in part. “In the face of such atrocities in [Xinjiang], there no longer exist corporate decisions of complacency, only complicity.”

It’s not the first time that a Western studio has come under fire for trying to accommodate Hollywood’s global push to woo Chinese audiences while dancing around humanitarian crises taking place within China’s borders. Recently, Disney came under heavy fire after the credits for its live-action remake of Mulan thanked multiple branches of Xinjiang’s CCP and propaganda departments for filming well after it was made clear the extent of the Chinese government’s crackdown on Uighurs in the region.

Disney only acknowledged after the backlash that the incident had “generated a lot of issues” for Disney, taking no further action. It should be noted that the Republican senators did not press Disney for co-operating with the CCP as they have done so with Netflix, casting doubts about just how much these Senators actually care beyond advancing the Trump administration’s ongoing anti-China sentiments.

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io9 has reached out to Netflix for commentary on Sen. Blackburn’s letter, and will update this post when and if we hear back. The streaming platform’s Three-Body Problem adaptation currently has no planned release date.

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James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!

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DISCUSSION

der_Koekje
der_Koekje

I don’t understand what these people want asking Chinese citizens who are in the spotlight, almost completely rely on their fame within China and are always at risk of being cut off, exiled or worse about these issues. Even if he disagrees with the Uighur detainment it would be career suicide if not actual suicide if he were to admit that.