This week, a group of five Republican Senators wrote a letter to Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos regarding the streaming service's in-the-works television adaptation of the Chinese sci-fi book by Liu Cixin, The Three-Body Problem, accusing Netflix of normalizing Chinese human rights violations against the nation's Uyghur Muslims by bringing Liu's books to life. Now, Netflix is responding to the criticism directly: the controversy has nothing to do with the book.
"Netflix judges individual projects on their merits," Dean Garfield, Netflix's VP of Global Public Policy, said (via Deadline). "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."
The comments in question were made by Liu in an interview with the New Yorker last summer regarding the Chinese government’s alleged treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Liu's comments in that interview seemed to imply that the Muslim residents of XUAR were terrorists and that the government's actions were not only in furtherance of public safety but meant to help residents in the region as well. In the Senators' letter, they said that they had "significant concerns with Netflix's decision to do business with an individual who is parroting dangerous CCP propaganda."
The situation is one that raises the question of whether one can separate an artistic work from the views of the artist, but Netflix's response seems to land on the side of taking the work for its own merits, though the full response did take the time to address the Senators' concerns -- answering each of the questions asked in the original letter. You can read those responses, as well as the initial questions, 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.