Elon Musk denies cars were used to spy in China: Tesla would be ‘shut down’

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Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk denied claims from the Chinese government that Tesla vehicles could be tied to espionage efforts in the country, arguing such a move would force the electric car manufacturer to “shut down.”

Musk, while speaking at the virtual China Development Forum on Saturday, responded to new Chinese government restrictions on Tesla products that were revealed publicly this week. 

The billionaire pushed back on the ban, saying he would have nothing to gain from participating in espionage.

“If Tesla used cars to carry out espionage activities in China or anywhere, we will get shut down … There’s a strong incentive for us to be confidential,” Musk said, according to The South China Morning Post.

Musk then compared the issue to national security concerns surrounding Chinese-owned video platform TikTok, which former President Trump threatened to ban unless it was sold to another company. 

“Many people were concerned over TikTok but I think this was an unnecessary concern. We should learn lessons from this,” Musk argued at Saturday’s meeting.

People familiar with the effort told The Wall Street Journal that the Chinese government’s decision was prompted by concerns that cameras and sensors in Tesla cars could be used to gather information threatening national security.

The Journal reported that sources said the Chinese government told some agencies to inform drivers that they should stop driving Tesla vehicles to work, and that the electric cars were also banned at housing compounds of families with personnel working in specific state agencies. 

Chinese government officials reportedly expressed concern that the cameras in Tesla vehicles, which allow customers to collect video on the areas around their parked car, could be constantly recording data to be shared for unknown purposes.

A person familiar with the ban told the South China Morning Post that it was issued a couple weeks ago. 

The reports on Tesla restrictions come a week after the Chinese government criticized the Biden administration over new restrictions implemented on Chinese telecom giant Huawei, including the prohibition of more items for use in 5G technology. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters at the time that the new limits would “severely disrupt the technological exchanges and trade exchanges of the two countries and the world at large,” and “undermine the global industrial chains and supply chains.” 

“The U.S. should stop the suppression on Chinese companies immediately and treat Chinese companies in a fair, just and nondiscriminatory manner,” Lijan added. 

However, President Biden has called for increased rules on Chinese and Russian technology companies to prevent increased threats to U.S. cybersecurity, especially after a series of hacks on U.S. agencies by actors in both countries.

Tags biden administration China chinese government cyber hack cybersecurity Donald Trump Elon Musk Huawei Joe Biden South China Morning Post Tesla The Wall Street Journal Tik Tok

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