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Netflix stands firm on its plan to adapt Chinese sci-fi novel

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NETFLIX, Inc. stood by its decision to adapt an award-winning Chinese science-fiction novel, after five Republican US senators asked the streaming service to consider the implications of providing a platform to the book’s author for his political views.

Liu Cixin is the novel’s writer, and not a creator of the planned Netflix series, the company said in a statement released on Friday. In a letter earlier last week, Senators Kevin Cramer, Marsha Blackburn and others pointed to Mr. Liu’s remarks about Uighur Muslims in a 2019 interview and expressed their “significant concerns” with the decision to do business with a person who they said was parroting the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda.

“Netflix judges individual projects on their merits,” the company said. “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 US has piled pressure on China over its treatment of Uighur Muslims in the far west region, where the United Nations estimated hundreds of thousands of members of the ethnic minority could be held in “re-education camps.” China has defended the camps as “vocational education centers” intended to “purge ideological diseases,” including terrorism and religious extremism.

Walt Disney Co. has faced boycott calls for filming part of its live-action Mulan film in Xinjiang, while current and former suppliers to major international clothing brands including Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, and Nike have been hit by sanctions.

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The Chinese government is “committing atrocities” in Xinjiang and “sadly, a number of US companies continue to either actively or tacitly allow the normalization of, or apologism for, these crimes,” the senators wrote in a Sept. 23 letter to Netflix.

“The decision to produce an adaptation of Mr. Liu’s work can be viewed as such normalization,” they said.

Netflix said Mr. Liu’s views “are not part of the plot or themes of the show.”

The Three-Body Problem is the first book in a trilogy that’s considered China’s most successful science fiction series, and it has wound up on the reading lists of President Barack Obama and Facebook, Inc.’s Mark Zuckerberg. — Bloomberg

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