Netflix distances from author’s comments about Muslim Uyghurs but defends project

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A Netflix executive on Friday responded to criticisms over a planned television series based on a book, with the production company and streaming platform saying it does not agree with the author’s views on ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims in China. 

Five Republican senators had sent a letter to Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos on Wednesday asking the company to “seriously reconsider” its plans to develop a series based on “The Three-Body Problem” by author Liu Cixin, citing Liu’s previous remarks supporting the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province. 

Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Martha McSally (Ariz.), Rick Scott (Fla.) and Thom Tillis (N.C.) signed onto the letter. 

“The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is committing atrocities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), also known as East Turkistan to locals, including mass imprisonment, forced labor, thought transformation in order to denounce religion and culture, involuntary medical testing, and forced sterilization and abortion,” the letter to Netflix said. 

The senators added, “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.”

On Friday, Netflix Global Public Policy Vice President Dean Garfield responded to the senators in a letter arguing that Liu’s views “are entirely unrelated to his book or this Netflix show.” 

“Mr. Liu is the author of the book, not the creator of this show,” Garfield wrote, according to Reuters. “We do not agree with his comments.” 

In a 2019 interview with the New Yorker, Liu said that he welcomed the Chinese government’s control over the Uyghur population. 

“If anything, the government is helping their economy and trying to lift them out of poverty,” Liu said in the interview. “If you were to loosen up the country a bit, the consequences would be terrifying.”

The request from the senators came the same day the House moved forward a bill targeting companies that benefit from the use of China’s forced labor camps, which disproportionately include Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region. The Uyghur Forced Labor Disclosure Act of 2020 would require companies that are publicly traded in the U.S. and do business within Xinjiang to disclose information on their supply chains.

Tags China Kevin Cramer Marsha Blackburn Martha McSally Netflix Rick Scott Thom Tillis Uyghurs Xinjiang province Xinjiang re-education camps

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