Tesla criticized for opening showroom in China’s Xinjiang province

Greg Nash

Human rights groups, activists and lawmakers are criticizing Tesla, the American electric car company headed by billionaire Elon Musk, for opening a showroom in China’s Xinjiang province. 

The U.S. government has said that Beijing is carrying out a genocide against the minority Uighur Muslim population in that region.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest U.S. Muslim advocacy organization, issued a statement calling for the Texas-based Tesla to shutter its showroom in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi.

“No American corporation should be doing business in a region that is the focal point of a campaign of genocide targeting a religious and ethnic minority,” CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said in a statement. “Elon Musk and Tesla must close this new showroom and cease what amounts to economic support for genocide.” 

Tesla announced the opening of its dealership in the Xinjiang region on the Chinese social media app Weibo on December 31, the Wall Street Journal reported, establishing operations in a region that is the target of U.S. and international sanctions over Beijing’s policy of forced assimilation of the Uighur population.

The U.S. has determined that Beijing is carrying out a genocide and crimes against humanity targeting the Uighurs and other minority populations in Xinjiang. The State Department’s 2020 Human Rights report raised concern of the arbitrary detention of nearly a million Uighurs, forced sterilization, coerced abortions, rape, torture, forced labor and “draconian restrictions” on the freedom of religion, expression and movement. 

Beijing defends their actions as a novel approach to countering extremism and terrorism and says that such detention centers are vocational schools. The Chinese government has also slammed international criticism as hypocritical and meddling in internal Chinese affairs.

The U.S. and its allies have imposed sanctions on officials and entities in Xinjiang that they say are carrying out or contributing to human rights abuses.

Last month, President Biden signed into law the Uighur Force Labor Prevention Act, legislation that compels companies importing products from Xinjiang to prove that their items are not made with slave labor.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), author of the legislation, tweeted that Tesla is “helping the Chinese Communist Party cover up genocide and slave labor in the region.” 

In the United Kingdom — which has imposed parallel sanctions on Xinjiang authorities and entities alongside the U.S. — member of Parliament for the Labour Party Afzal Khan criticized Tesla’s operations in the Chinese province over concerns about human rights abuses. 

“Despite mounting evidence of human rights abuses and genocide in Xinjiang, this decision by [Tesla] is deeply unacceptable and shameful. Companies cannot remain complicit in the ongoing persecution of Uyghur Muslims.”

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, expressed concern over whether Tesla’s dealership contributed to complicity in forced labor in Xinjiang. 

“So how is [Elon Musk] going to avoid complicity in the Chinese government’s use of forced Uyghur Muslim labor in Xinjiang as [Tesla] opens a showroom there?” Roth tweeted. “Does he suddenly have a transparent supply chain that Beijing allows to no one else?”


Tags China Elon Musk Joe Biden Marco Rubio Tesla Xinjiang province

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