Tesla criticized after opening Xinjiang showroom

People at opening of Tesla showroom in Xinjiang, China.
Tesla posted pictures of the opening ceremony online, where people were shown holding ‘Tesla Loves Xinjiang’ signs

Electric car maker Tesla has been criticized in the US after opening a showroom in China’s controversial Xinjiang region.

The company, headed by billionaire Elon Musk, opened the showroom in the city of Urumqi on New Year’s Eve.

However, the move has been welcomed by some in China.

China has been accused of slavery and genocide against the Uyghur minority group in the resource-rich western region of the country.

Republican senator Marco Rubio, who sponsored a bill signed into law by President Joe Biden in December that requires firms to prove that goods imported from Xinjiang were not produced with forced labour, spoke out about Tesla’s decision.

Mr Rubio tweeted: “Nationless corporations are helping the Chinese Communist Party cover up genocide and slave labour in the region.”

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.”

However, the opening of the new Tesla showroom was widely welcomed by users of China’s Twitter-like Weibo social media platform.

One user posted: “Thank you for expanding in Xinjiang, happy new year!”. Another said: “You see, Tesla supports the development and construction of Xinjiang, unlike some companies.”

Opening ceremony of Tesla showroom in Xinjiang, China.
The opening ceremony featured a Chinese lion dance

Late last year, US microchip giant Intel apologized after a backlash over a letter it sent urging suppliers not to source products or labour from Xinjiang. The company’s letter sparked criticism in China, with calls for a boycott.

Intel was not the first company to come under pressure over aims to comply with sanctions related to Xinjiang while continuing to operate in China.

Retail giants Nike and H&M also faced a backlash last year after they expressed concern about the alleged use of Uyghur forced labour in cotton production.

The Xinjiang region of China is home to many of country’s Muslim Uyghur population and there have been allegations of forced labour and possibly genocide. Beijing has repeatedly denied the claims.

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