Jan 4, 2022 - Technology

Tesla opens showroom in Xinjiang province, despite China's human rights abuses

Tesla store in Hong Kong

A visitor tests and sits in a Tesla model S during the 2021 International Motor Expo in Hong Kong. Photo: Chukrut Budrul/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Tesla has opened a showroom in China's Xinjiang region, the province where the Chinese government has been accused of carrying out genocide against Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities.

Why it matters: Human rights advocates panned Tesla's decision, which comes weeks after President Biden signed into law a bill banning imports from Xinjiang unless there's "clear and convincing evidence" that they weren't made with forced labor, and imposing sanctions on those responsible for the forced labor.

  • Both the Trump and Biden administrations, as well as a number of foreign parliaments, have recognized the government's campaign of mass detention, surveillance, forced labor and forced sterilization against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang as genocide.

State of play: Tesla announced the opening of the new showroom in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi on a post on Weibo on Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported.

  • "In 2022, let us together launch Xinjiang on its electric journey!" Tesla wrote in the post, per the Journal.
  • This is not the start of Tesla's presence in Xinjiang, where it has previously installed several charging stations for its electric vehicles, per Bloomberg.

Human rights and advocacy groups have decried Tesla's decision.

  • The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), one of the nation's most prominent Muslim advocacy groups, issued a statement Tuesday calling for Tesla to close the showroom.
  • "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,” Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR's National Communications Director, said in the statement.
  • Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), condemned the news via Twitter, saying, "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."

The big picture: The Department of Commerce added several Chinese research institutes and tech companies to an export blacklist for developing technologies that China can use to repress minorities.

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