Criticisms of Tesla are mounting up over the company’s announcement that it is opening a new store in Xinjiang, a region of China where human rights groups believe the Chinese government put over 1 million Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities in labor camps.
After U.N. experts and human rights groups have raised the issues with China’s treatment of Uyghurs in the region for years now, there has recently been mounting pressure from Western governments on China to address the situation in Xinjiang.
The Chinese government has denied that the camps where the Muslim minorities are sent involve forced labor or any kind of abuse.
Instead, they claim that they involve “vocational training.”
With the situation seemingly at an impasse, several groups have suggested boycotting companies that do business in the controversial region.
Volkswagen was recently in hot waters for defending its factory in the region.
Now the attention is turning to Tesla.
Last week, Tesla announced that it is opening its first Tesla Center in the region (via Weibo):
Several groups have since come out asking Tesla to shut down the new store.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim advocacy group in the US, wrote in a press release:
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today called on Elon Musk to close a recently-opened Tesla showroom in China’s Xinjiang region, where Chinese authorities are carrying out a campaign of genocide targeting the Uyghur Muslim minority.
In a comment, CAIR national communications director Ibrahim Hooper said that Tesla’s new store “amounts to economic support for genocide”:
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. Elon Musk and Tesla must close this new showroom and cease what amounts to economic support for genocide.
US officials have stated that they see the treatment of the Uyghur in China as a “genocide.”
The CAIR has been recently launching boycott initiatives over the issue, like boycotting Hilton hotels for building a hotel on the site of a mosque that was demolished in the region.
Several politicians and human rights groups criticizing Tesla, like US Senator Marco Rubio, see the store opening as Tesla taking a side on the issue:
The automaker hasn’t commented on the response to its store opening in Xinjiang.
Tesla doesn’t have a PR department to answer press questions anymore, but it does in China.
Companies being criticized for doing business in the region have been careful about how they comment on the situation since they get affected both ways.
Both Intel and H&M faced issues with Chinese customers earlier this year after they simply stated that they do not use forced labor, which China saw as suggesting that there is forced labor in the first place.
Chinese State run media offered up the following:
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