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Tesla opens showroom in China region where Muslims are said to be systematically imprisoned

January 3, 2022, 8:34 PM UTC

Tesla is opening a new showroom in China’s Xinjiang region, where the country has been accused of human rights abuses against the region’s Uyghur Muslim population.

Beijing has denied these allegations, calling camps there “vocational education centers.

Tesla announced the showroom on Dec. 31 with a post on popular Chinese social media platform Weibo.

“As the first Tesla center in Xinjiang, the store integrates sales, after-sales and delivery services, offering Xinjiang users one-stop service and escorting Tesla owners’ journey in western China,” it reads.

The showroom, located in Urumqi in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, is Tesla’s westernmost showroom in China, but not the start of its presence there. As noted by CNevPost, Tesla has installed two of its Supercharger power stations in Urumqi, and seven in Xinjiang overall. It unveiled the first of those stations in June 2021.

Tesla didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. The showroom opening comes just over a week after President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan bill on Dec. 23 banning imports from the region unless companies can prove the materials were not made through forced labor. The U.S. and other countries have also announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games.

China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the new U.S. law “maliciously denigrates the human rights situation in China’s Xinjiang in disregard of facts and truth.” Chinese officials said the U.S. should “correct the mistake immediately” and that “China will make further response in light of the development of the situation.”

The Workers Rights Consortium Executive Director Scott Nova, who supports the new U.S. law as “a major step forward,” called on global corporations to be held accountable for profiting on an area that is the “global epicenter of forced labor.”

“This is not just about a disagreement or conflict between the us of the Chinese government,” Nova said in an interview. “This is about the obligation of corporations to comply with internationally recognized human rights and labor rights standards, and not to be actively complicit in grievous labor rights abuses.” 

Tesla is wading into a region that has been a public relations headache for other companies trying to take a stance against what the U.S. has called a “genocide.” Corporations from Walt Disney to  Walmart have been criticized both for having a presence in and for distancing themselves from Xinjiang. In 2020, Disney Chief Financial Officer Christine McCarthy said in the decision to film parts of its live-action “Mulan” in the region “generated a lot of issues.” In a Dec. 22 WeChat post, Intel apologized after its opposition to Xinjiang labor sparked a backlash in China.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing blasted this latest move by Tesla. 

“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,” AAM President Scott Paul said in an emailed statement.

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