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Suspect in Murder of ‘Three-Body Problem’ Producer Rehearsed Killing, Say Chinese Media

Patrick Frater
·3-min read

The death by poisoning of Lin Qi, the billionaire Chinese film and TV producer who was set to work with Netflix on “The Three-Body Problem,” was unusual when initial details emerged in late December. The picture now emerging from Chinese media points to a carefully planned murder carried out by a jealous junior colleague who practiced his craft before eliminating his boss.

Lin was admitted to hospital in Shanghai on Dec. 16 and died on Dec. 25, despite being give some 40 litres of blood transfusions. He was treated for mercury poisoning, but may in fact have been killed by tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin most commonly found in puffer fish.

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Shanghai police gave only the family name of their suspect, Xu. But Chinese media have identified him as Xu Yao, CEO of an affiliate of YooZoo Group called The Three-Body Problem Universe, which was set up to develop film and TV adaptations of the hit novel series written by Liu Cixin. The Netflix adaptation with David Benioff, D.B. Weiss and Alexander Woo writing and producing was announced in September last year.

Reputable finance industry publication Caixin says two sources have said Lin was hit by a cocktail of up to five different poisons.

Caixin explains that Xu was obsessed with the U.S. TV series “Breaking Bad,” in which a high school chemistry teacher cooks up crystal meth and becomes a drug lord.

It reports that Xi set up his own lab in Shanghai’s Qingpu district, in order to manufacture and test the poisons he would eventually use against Lin. It says he obtained chemicals and more than 100 poisons on the dark web and tried them out by killing animals including pet cats and dogs.

Caixin explains that when Xu was ready, he allegedly prepared a bottle with 30 probiotic tablets, including one of his poison pills, and gave it to Lin. The supposedly health-giving pills were then furnished — and shared — by Lin’s secretary. Lin swallowed the poison one some ten days later and fell ill shortly afterwards.

This runs counter to the previous narrative that the poison was administered through a serving of pu’erh Chinese tea. Chinese reports also say that Lin, Zhao Jilong (VP of Xu’s film division) and a third employee, all suffered from the effects of poisoning.

The professional jealousy explanation for the killing may be bolstered by the inclusion of Lin and Zhao in the Netflix deal announcement. It named the pair as executive producers. Xu’s name, however, was omitted.

Caixin reports that Xu has extensive legal training and has so far refused to confess to the crime. He studied in China before studying insurance law at the Paul Cezanne University in Marseille, France, and later completing his studies at the University of Michigan Law School in the U.S. Prior to joining Yoozoo in 2017, Xu’s work career included ten years at Fosun Group, a conglomerate whose interests included insurance and entertainment.

The publication reports that Xu became head of the IP unit the following year. Lin had growing misgivings about Xu’s production skills and wanted to replace him with Zhao, who was also poisoned, as per reports. Zhao appears to have suffered an unusually high amount of mercury in his body, but is expected to be discharged from hospital.

Other Chinese media have published details of Lin’s personal life, following an announcement by Yoozoo last week that Lin’s 24% stake in Yoozoo would be divided between two daughters and a son he reportedly fathered with a woman called Xu Fenfen, with whom he had a little-known relationship over a period of 19 years.

It appears that Lin and Xu were not married. But Chinese law allows children born in or out of wedlock to inherit on equal terms. Lin left no known will. It appears that, as the children are all minors, Xu will temporarily control the shares representing that largest single holding in the company.

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