SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Electric car maker Tesla has been criticized by U.S. human rights groups and business groups for opening a showroom in China’s Xinjiang region. Billionaire Elon Musk’s group appears to be embroiled in political tensions between Washington and Beijing.
Xinjiang has become in recent years a major point of conflict between Western governments and China. More than a million people, mostly Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities, are held in camps in the region, according to UN experts and human rights groups. Washington even accuses China of genocide against the Uyghur Muslim minority.
US President Joe Biden signed a law on Dec. 23 banning imports from Xinjiang over concerns about forced labor in that country. Now companies must be able to clearly demonstrate that the products they obtain from the region are not made with forced labor. The United States and some other countries also declared a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February on the issue.
China rejects allegations of forced labor or other abuses in the region and says the camps offer job training and companies must abide by their policies there.
Tesla announced last Friday the opening of its showroom in Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang, via its official account on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. On Tuesday, the Council of American-Islamic Relations, America’s largest civil rights and Muslims group, criticized the move, saying Tesla “supports genocide” and that the company should shut down its showroom.
Similar criticisms have come from the US trade group Alliance for American Manufacturing and US Senator Marco Rubio, the author of the law banning products from Xinjiang. Commenting on the opening of the Tesla showroom, Rubio said that “companies without nationality are helping the Chinese Communist Party to cover up the genocide and forced labor in the region.”
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