The chairman of China’s Yoozoo Group Lin Qi, an executive producer on Netflix’s upcoming high-profile sci-fi adaption “The Three-Body Problem,” is currently hospitalized in Shanghai after what a police report indicated Wednesday may be a deliberate poisoning carried out by a colleague involved in managing that IP.
Netflix announced in September that it will adapt all three books in the critically acclaimed “Three-Body Problem” sci-fi trilogy by Chinese writer Liu Cixin, with “Game of Thrones” creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, along with Alexander Woo, set to write and executive produce.
The streamer bought the rights to adapt the series in English from video game developer Yoozoo, a Shenzhen-listed firm that acquired the rights itself in 2015, and is currently at work on other Chinese-language film and TV adaptations of its own.
A male, 39-year-old patient surnamed Lin was “suspected of having been poisoned while receiving diagnosis and treatment at a hospital,” the Shanghai Public Security Bureau said at 7pm local time Wednesday in a post on its official social media account. Police had received report of the incident last Thursday, Dec. 17.
The statement continued: “After on-site surveys and investigations, it was discovered that Lin’s colleague surnamed Xu (male, 39) was suspected of committing a major crime. At present, Xu has been criminally detained by the police in accordance with the law, and related investigations are being further carried out.”
The post did not tie the case directly to Yoozoo. Typical of such announcements in China, it also did not list either the victim or perpetrator’s full name.
Nevertheless, Chinese reports have tied the statement to 39-year-old Lin, who founded Yoozoo in 2009.
Citing sources inside the firm, reports from outlets including respected financial publication Caixin identify the perpetrator as Yoozoo exec Xu Yao, 39. The University of Michigan Law School grad joined the company in 2017 and rose to become CEO of The Three-Body Universe, a branch of the broader group within its newer film production arm involved in managing and developing the “Three-Body” IP.
In recent days, Chinese media had written in a more speculative fashion about in-fighting among Yoozoo executives that had led to a poisoning. Some reports allege that Lin was poisoned via an aged, prized varietal of fermented tea known as pu’er.
Yoozoo Group’s co-president Chen Fang has previously denied such claims on social media, saying that “there’s no in-fighting… rumors are the real poison,” according to such reports.
But after the public security bureau post gave new credibility to earlier speculation, Yoozoo on Wednesday issued a formal statement on the matter.
“Although the company’s management has recovered from the emergency situation last week and resumed normal operations, some friends are still uneasy and members of the public are curious” about the affair, it began.
The company confirmed that Lin had indeed “developed acute symptoms of illness and immediately rushed himself to the hospital” on the evening of Dec. 16, and that “the hospital contacted the police as soon as possible during the treatment process.” Both Lin’s treatment and the investigation have made “clear progress,” it added, with Lin currently still hospitalized but in a stable, improving condition.
It begged partners and investors to “please rest assured” that top executives and core employees are now back at work, stating: “The company is operating normally.” Its stock fell nearly 3% to close at RMB14.07 ($2.15) Wednesday. It opened a further 7% lower on Thursday.
Yooozoo Group made net profits of $75.8 million (RMB495 million) in the first half of 2020, an increase of 22% year-on-year, according to its semi-annual report. Chinese media cite Sensor Tower as listing Yoozoo among the top six Chinese mobile games publishers in terms of global revenue in recent months.
Even just three months after its announcement, Netflix’s “Three-Body Problem” series has already been hit by previous conflict, after certain U.S. politicians questioned the company for choosing to adapt a work by Liu. The author has previously expressed support for Chinese government policies in Xinjiang, a region where Beijing has forcibly jailed more than a million ethnic minority Uyghurs in detention camps.
Netflix put up a stout rebuttal of the senators’ criticisms. It repeatedly point to the fact that “Mr. Liu is the author of the books, not the creator of this series.” Netflix VP of public policy Dean Garfield wrote: “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.”
The company had not yet responded to Variety’s request for comment about the Yoozoo chairman at the time of publication.