U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is sounding the alarm about Netflix over the streaming service’s plans to adapt and promote a Chinese sci-fi book series written by an author who expresses support for the Communist government’s “re-education” camps for Muslim Uyghurs.
On Wednesday, Blackburn and U.S. Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Martha McSally (R-AZ) signed a letter to Ted Sarandos Jr., co-CEO and chief content officer for Netflix.
The letter is available here.
Their letter expresses their “significant concerns” over the decision to provide a platform for Liu Cixin and his scifi trilogy The Three-Body Problem, which Netflix intends to turn into a live-action series. They ask if Netflix agrees that the internment of 1.8 million to 3 million Uyghurs is unacceptable.
They wrote, in part:
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. These crimes are committed systemically and at a scale which may warrant a distinction of genocide. Sadly, a number of U.S. companies continue to either actively or tacitly allow the normalization of, or apologism for, these crimes. The decision to produce an adaptation of Mr. Liu’s work can be viewed as such normalization.
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. In the face of such atrocities in XUAR, there no longer exist corporate decisions of complacency, only complicity.
The New Yorker on June 17, 2019, ran an interview with Liu, conducted by Jiayang Fan, available here. The journalist suggested Liu acted “brainwashed” in repeating Communist propaganda and for suggesting the Muslim Uyghurs were better off in internment camps. He also said Chinese people don’t care about democracy.
When I brought up the mass internment of Muslim Uighurs—around a million are now in reeducation camps in the northwestern province of Xinjiang—he trotted out the familiar arguments of government-controlled media: “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.” The answer duplicated government propaganda so exactly that I couldn’t help asking Liu if he ever thought he might have been brainwashed. “I know what you are thinking,” he told me with weary clarity. “What about individual liberty and freedom of governance?” He sighed, as if exhausted by a debate going on in his head. “But that’s not what Chinese people care about. For ordinary folks, it’s the cost of health care, real-estate prices, their children’s education. Not democracy.”
Blackburn and more than 70 Senate and House members earlier this year called for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin to issue a formal determination of the crimes against humanity against Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim ethnic minorities.
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Jason M. Reynolds has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.