Tesla’s declaration that it will establish a showroom in Xinjiang has sparked outrage among US rights and trade groups, making it the latest foreign company to get embroiled in Xinjiang tensions.
In recent years, Xinjiang has been a major subject of contention between Western nations and China, with the United Nations and human rights organizations estimating that more than a million people, mostly Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, have been incarcerated in camps there.
China has denied claims of forced labor or other human rights violations, claiming that the camps provide vocational training and that businesses should adhere to the country’s rules.
Last Friday, the American electric vehicle manufacturer announced the establishment of a showroom in Urumqi, the provincial capital of Xinjiang. “We meet in Xinjiang on the final day of 2021,” it added in the message.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim advocacy group in the United States, condemned the decision on Tuesday, claiming Tesla was “promoting genocide.”
China’s treatment of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang has been described by the US as genocide. Because of the problem, the US and a few other nations are planning a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February.
On its official Twitter account, the Council on American-Islamic Relations stated, “Elon Musk must shut Tesla’s Xinjiang showroom.”
The Alliance for American Manufacturing, a trade organization based in the United States, and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio also voiced similar complaints.
A request for comment from Tesla was not immediately returned. The automaker has a facility in Shanghai and is increasing manufacturing there in response to rising sales in China.
Tensions between the West and China over Xinjiang have tripped up a host of international companies in recent months, as they strive to balance Western criticism with China’s importance as a market and supply base.
In July, Swedish fashion retailer H&M reported a 23% drop in local currency sales in China for its March-May quarter after it was hit by a consumer boycott in March for stating publicly that it did not source products from Xinjiang.
Last month, U.S. chipmaker Intel faced similar calls after telling its suppliers not to source products or labour from Xinjiang, prompting it to apologize for “the trouble caused to our respected Chinese customers, partners and the public”.
Although some have been trying to reduce their supply chain exposure to the region, especially as Washington bans imports such as Xinjiang cotton or blacklists Chinese companies that it says have aided Beijing’s policy there, many foreign brands operate stores there.