The Bizarre Murder of the Billionaire Behind the Netflix Hit Series ‘3 Body Problem’

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Lin Qi was a billionaire with a dream. The video game magnate wanted from one of the most famous Chinese science fiction novels, The three-body problem, making it a worldwide hit. And so he started working with Netflix and the makers of the HBO series Game of Thrones to bring the alien invasion saga to an international audience.

3 Body Problem premiered on Netflix last month to millions of viewers. Something Lin was never able to experience again.

He was poisoned in Shanghai in 2020 at the age of 39 by a disgruntled colleague. The murder roiled China’s tech and video game circles, where he was considered a prominent emerging talent. The colleague in question, Xu Yao, a 43-year-old former executive at Lin’s company, was sentenced to death for murder last month by a Shanghai court, which called his actions “extremely despicable.”

The court has made few specific details public, but Lin’s murder was, as one Chinese news outlet put it, “as bizarre as a Hollywood blockbuster.” Chinese media, based on corporate sources and court documents, have painted a story characterized by deadly ambitions and rivalry with a macabre edge. Xu reportedly meticulously planned his revenge attack and tested poison on small animals in a makeshift laboratory. His action not only affected Lin, but also others, including Xu’s replacement, who survived the poisoning.

Yang Hewen as Bai Mulin and Zine Tseng as Young Ye Wenjie in the first episode of ‘3 Body Problem’.Image ED MILLER/NETFLIX

Methylmercury chloride

Lin had spent millions of euros buying up copyrights and licenses of the original Chinese science fiction book in 2014 The three-body problem and two other books by Chinese author Liu Cixin that together form a trilogy. The three-body problem tells the story of an engineer who is asked by Chinese authorities to investigate a wave of suicides among scientists and who discovers an alien plot in the process. Lin wanted to build a worldwide franchise of television shows and films based on the novels, similar to Star Wars.

Lin would eventually work with David Benioff and DB Weiss, the creators of the television series Game of Thrones, will collaborate on a Netflix project. (The best-known release from Lin’s game company Youzu Interactive – which is called Yoozoo in English – is an online strategy game based on the HBO hit, called Game of Thrones: Winter Is Coming.)

Lin’s fortunes changed when he hired lawyer Xu in 2017 to run a Yoozoo subsidiary, The Three-Body Universe, which owned the rights to Liu’s novels. But not long after, Xu was demoted and had his salary reduced, apparently due to poor performance. According to the Chinese business magazine Caixin Xu responded angrily.

While Xu plotted his revenge, it was reported Caixinhe built a laboratory in a remote neighborhood of Shanghai where he experimented with hundreds of toxins purchased from the dark web, testing them on dogs, cats, and other pets. Caixin wrote that Xu was both fascinated and inspired by the American hit series Breaking Badabout a chemistry teacher with cancer who learns to make and trade methamphetamine and eventually becomes a drug lord.

Between September and December 2020, Xu began adding methylmercury chloride to drinks such as coffee, drinking water and whiskey, and taking them to the office, reported Caixin, which relied on court documents. The details of the report could not be independently confirmed.

Calls to Yoozoo and the Shanghai court were not answered. Netflix did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The story is as bizarre as a Hollywood blockbuster, and the technology is professional enough to be the Chinese version of it Breaking Bad to be mentioned,” Phoenix News, a Chinese news outlet, said last month.

In an article by The Hollywood Reporter in January, Benioff said the killing was “certainly disturbing.” “When you work in this business, you can expect all kinds of problems. But someone who poisons the boss is generally not one of them.”

Police arrested Xu on December 18, 2020, the Shanghai No. reported. 1 Intermediate People’s Court on its official WeChat account when announcing the verdict and sentencing. Xu reportedly refused to admit to the crime and did not reveal which poison he had used, complicating doctors’ efforts to save Lin’s life.

The court found that Xu had plotted to poison Lin and four other people over an office dispute. The message included a photo of a bespectacled Xu in an oversized beige vest in the courtroom, surrounded by three police officers. The statement said more than 50 people, including relatives of Xu and Lin, attended the sentencing.

The Three-Body Universe, Yoozoo’s subsidiary, did not respond to a request for comment. Its CEO, Zhao Jilong, posted on his WeChat account, according to Chinese state media: “Justice has been done.”

Vedette Lim as Vera Ye in the first episode of ‘3 Body Problem’.Image COURTESY OF NETFLIX

‘Cultural hegemony’

Before he was killed, Lin was a celebrity in the world of young Chinese entrepreneurs. He built his fortune in early 2010 by riding the popularity of mobile games. His attempt to popularize Liu’s novels was a rare attempt to export Chinese popular culture – something the Chinese government longs for as it wants to be able to wield the same soft power as the United States with its films, music and sports stars, but where she has not yet succeeded.

Six years after the publication of The three-body problem an English version, translated by Ken Liu, was released in 2008 to great acclaim. The book won the Hugo Award for best novel, an important science fiction prize. Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg were among those who loved the work.

Although Netflix is ​​not available in China, it has 3 Body Problem nevertheless caused a backlash among Chinese viewers who accessed the platform using virtual private networks or who watched pirated versions of the series. Users on Chinese social media have expressed anger that the Netflix adaptation has westernized certain aspects of the story, saying the series attempts to demonize some Chinese characters.

Even the propaganda wing of the People’s Liberation Army has spoken out about the series. In an editorial published on the website China Military Online, it called the Netflix series an example of American “cultural hegemony.” “It is clear that the United States, after gaining control of it as a superpower, sought to transform and recreate this popular intellectual property,” it said. “The aim was to damage the reputation of modern China as much as possible.”

© The New York Times

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Bizarre Murder Billionaire Netflix Hit Series Body Problem

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