In the United States, Tesla has been blasted for opening a showroom in China’s disputed Xinjiang region.
The business run by billionaire Elon Musk presented a showroom in the Chinese city of Urumqi on New Year’s Eve. The company announced the opening on Weibo, a prominent Chinese social media network, through its verified account. However, some Chinese people have supported the action.
Slavery and genocide have been accused against the Uyghur minority community in China’s resource-rich western region. Last March, a report by more than 50 international law experts concluded that China’s treatment of Uyghurs constituted genocide, or a concerted endeavor to eradicate, in whole or in part, a specific religious or ethnic group.
Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, came out against Tesla’s move, having backed a bill signed into law by President Joe Biden in December that compels companies to verify that goods imported from Xinjiang were not made with forced labor.
In a statement released at the time of the signing, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said, “We call on the Government of the People’s Republic of China to immediately abolish the genocide and crimes against humanity perpetrated in Xinjiang against the mostly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities..”
“Nationless corporations are assisting the Chinese Communist Party in covering up genocide and slave labor in the region,” Mr. Rubio tweeted.
Scott Paul, president of the Alliance of American Manufacturing, said: “To be plain, any corporation doing business in Xinjiang is complicit in the continuing cultural genocide in the region. However, Tesla’s acts are particularly despicable.”
Users of China’s Weibo social media network, which is similar to Twitter, were enthusiastic about the new Tesla showroom’s debut.
Thank you for increasing your presence in Xinjiang. New year’s greetings, wrote one person. “You see, Tesla, unlike certain firms, supports the development and construction of Xinjiang,” another stated.
After a backlash over a letter it sent to vendors advising them not to source products or labor from Xinjiang, US microchip giant Intel issued an apology late last year. In China, the company’s letter triggered outrage and calls for a boycott.
“While our original goal was to ensure compliance with US law, this letter has raised many questions and worries among our valued Chinese partners, for which we deeply apologize,” Intel later stated on Weibo.
Intel isn’t the first company to be chastised for trying to comply with Xinjiang sanctions while operating in China. Last year, when Nike and H&M expressed concern about the alleged use of Uyghur forced labor in cotton manufacturing, they received pushback.
Many of China’s Muslim Uyghurs live in the Xinjiang province, where there have been charges of forced labor and possibly genocide. The BBC published a report based on fresh evidence in December 2020, revealing that China was putting hundreds of thousands of minorities, particularly Uyghurs, into manual labor in the cotton fields of Xinjiang.
Beijing has always disputed the accusations.
Tesla’s US headquarters did not react to inquiries about whether it was concerned about conducting business in the region because of alleged human rights violations.