Elon Musk’s Tesla has been criticised in the United States for opening a showroom in the most controversial Chinese region Xinjiang. The showroom was opened in the city of Urumqi on New Year's Eve.
In Urumqi, Tesla has installed two Supercharger power stations, with a total of seven in Xinjiang. In June 2021, the first of these stations was unveiled.
Needless to say that the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has been in talks for years. Several countries, including the American government, accused China of committing genocide in the region and officials in Xinjiang have been accused of slavery against the Uyghur minority community.
But Chinese authorities denied such claims, calling camps in the region “vocational education centres”.
After a bipartisan bill was signed by the United States President in December, banning imports from the region unless companies can prove the materials were not made through forced labour, China's Foreign Ministry said, "maliciously denigrates the human rights situation in China’s Xinjiang in disregard of facts and truth." At the same time, Chinese officials stated that America should "correct the mistake immediately" and that China will respond further as the situation develops.
However, a Republican senator from Florida in the United States, Marco Rubio—who backed the bill signed into law by President Joe Biden in December—spoke out against Tesla's recent move.
The senator tweeted: “Right after President Biden signed Sen. Rubio’s Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act into law, @Tesla opened a store in #Xinjiang. Nationless corporations are helping the Chinese Communist Party cover up genocide and slave labour in the region.”
Meanwhile, Scott Paul, the president of the Alliance of American Manufacturing industry body, said: "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."
On the other hand, users of China's Weibo social media network, which is similar to Twitter, showed excitement about the new Tesla showroom's debut after the company made the announcement on 31 December saying, “As the first Tesla centre 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.”
While welcoming Telsa’s move one Weibo user wrote, "You see, Tesla supports the development and construction of Xinjiang, unlike some companies."
Intel issued an apology late last year after a reaction to a letter it sent asking vendors not to purchase products linked to Xinjiang. In China, the company's letter triggered outrage and calls for a boycott.
However, Intel isn't the first firm to face criticism for attempting to comply with Xinjiang sanctions while continuing to operate in China. Last year, when Nike and H&M expressed concern about the alleged use of Uyghur forced labour in cotton manufacturing, they also received pushback.
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