Electric car maker slammed for opening dealership in Xinjiang, the region at centre of Western claims about human right abuses and forced labour camps
Electric car giant Tesla has opened a dealership showroom in the Xinjiang region, despite Western allegations of Chinese abuses in the remote province.
The company opened the showroom in the region’s capital city of Urumqi on New Year’s Eve, but the move has been heavily criticised by US politicians, civil rights groups and trade associations.
Just before Christmas Intel issued a public apology after a backlash in China, when it wrote to suppliers, warning them not to source products or labour from the Xinjiang region of the country.
Intel’s move demonstrated the tricky position businesses are now confronting if any part of their supply chain is located in Xinjiang.
The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and others last year accused China of widespread human rights abuses and forced labour camps in Xinjiang, which is home to the country’s predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other Muslim groups such as the Kazakh and Kyrgyz ethnic minorities.
The United States has labelled China’s treatment of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang as genocide.
Indeed, the United States, the UK, Canada and Australia have announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February over the issue.
UN experts and rights groups estimate more than a million people have been detained in camps in the region.
However Beijing has repeatedly denied abuses in Xinjiang and insists its policies are design to combat extremism.
Tesla waded into this furore when on 31 December, it announced the opening of the new dealership there, on Tesla’s Weibo (popular Chinese social media platform) account.
“The Urumqi Tesla Center officially opens #inanewdirection… As the first Tesla Center in Xinjiang, this location integrates sales, service and delivery.” reads the post, which was translated by CNBC.
“It will help Xinjiang users enjoy the experience of one-stop service, escorting Tesla car owners on their journey to the west,” it reportedly said.
Tesla’s move however has incensed US politicians, civil rights groups and trade associations, but has also drawn praise from many Chinese social media users.
It should be remembered that US senators recently approved a bill banning imports from China’s Xinjiang region unless businesses can prove they were produced without forced labour.
The author of the bill, Republican US Senator Marco Rubio slammed Tesla for the decision on Twitter.
“Right after President Biden signed Sen. Rubio’s Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act into law, @Tesla opened a store in #Xinjiang,” he tweeted. “Nationless corporations are helping the Chinese Communist Party cover up genocide and slave labor in the region.”
On Tuesday the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest American Muslim advocacy organisation, also criticised the move, saying that Tesla was “supporting genocide.”
“Elon Musk must close Tesla’s Xinjiang showroom,” Council on American-Islamic Relations said on its official Twitter account.
“By doing business in China’s Xinjiang Province, where millions of #Uyghur Muslims are being held in concentration camps and forced labor facilities, Tesla is supporting genocide. Elon Musk must close Tesla’s Xinjiang showroom,” it said.
Similar criticism came from a US trade group called the Alliance for American Manufacturing.
“I’ll be blunt: Any company doing business in Xinjiang is complicit in the cultural genocide taking place there. But Tesla’s actions are especially despicable,” it tweeted.
Musk is unlikely to pay much attention to the criticism however.
He is known for his fondness of China, and previously stated that “China rocks,” while the US is full of “complacency and entitlement.”
And Musk showed no sign of changing his ways in the New Year.
On Sunday he tweeted this amusing tweet about his intentions for 2022.