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Tesla opened a new showroom store in Xinjiang, the remote region in western China where the CCP is conducting a coordinated campaign of abuse targeting the Uyghur Muslim minority by imprisoning thousands of them in “re-education camps” and forcing thousands more to leave their families as part of Beijing’s plan to “deradicalize” the Muslim minority. Tesla’s decision has come under fire as many accuse the company of whitewashing the Uyghur genocide taking place in Xinjiang.
The decision to open a new store in Xinjiang comes just a few weeks after the United States Congress passed a bipartisan law prohibiting the importation of products built with Uyghur slave labor, after many reports showing the complicity of big American companies with the ongoing suppression campaign against Uyghurs in Xinjiang. While the new tesla shop is not a factory, it does send a signal of the company’s willingness to expand their business in China, regardless of the human rights violations that occur there.
Tesla has yet to release an official statement addressing the issue, but both government officials and NGOs have criticized the move. The Council on American-Islamic Relations posted a tweet calling Musk to immediately close Tesla’s showing room in Xinjiang, while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) decried the decision and accused global corporations of helping the CCP of covering up forced labor and genocide.
Tesla’s showroom is just a few drive away from a massive detention center
Tesla made the announcement on January 1st in their official account on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, where it posted that the Urumqi Tesla Center was finally open and bragging about starting a new journey of electric power in Xinjiang. Urumqi is the capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China where nearby, according to an article by AP in 2021, the Chinese government has constructed the largest Uyghur detention center in Xinjiang, where there is room for at least 10,000 individuals.
According to the Xinjiang data Project of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the detention facilities (located in the urban district of Dabancheng) are located in the outskirts of Urumqi, just an hour and a half drive away (97.4km) from the center of the city. To put this in context, this is roughly the same distance between Orlando and Tampa. According to the AP report, the detention centers are filled with inmates seating in rows forced to watch CCP propaganda.
Musk has dedicated a lot of time and effort to cultivating a positive relationship with the CCP. His car company (which has received a substantial amount of U.S. subsidies) produces more than half of his cars in Shanghai, and Musk himself has made very public statements endorsing the Chinese way of government, celebrating the nation’s economic development on the same day when the CCP celebrated its 100 years of existence last year. Of course, Tesla has seen its sales numbers in China increase substantially at the same time his leader cements that cozy relationship with Beijing, as the company has sold more than 73,000 vehicles in China in the last three months of 2021.
Tesla is not the only company involved in covering up the Uyghur genocide
Although Tesla is today in the eye of the hurricane over its cozy relationship with the Chinese Communist Party and its reluctance to address the rampant human rights violations in Xinjiang, the electric car giant is by no means the only American company that has turned a blind eye over the CCP’s multiple violations of human rights in Xinjiang.
Just a few weeks ago, Amazon was accused of engaging in pro-CCP censorship when selling a book with Xi Jinping’s speeches, while Apple and Nike have both been accused of benefitting from forced Uyghur labor in their global supply chains. The entertainment industry has also been accused of collaborating with China over the last years, as the NBA bowed to Beijing over a rift on Hong Kong and Disney being accused of whitewashing the Uyghur genocide by praising the Xinjiang Propaganda Department during their 2020 live-action adaptation of Mulan.
As the tensions between the United States and China increase, the pressure against billion-dollar corporations who are closely working with the CCP will grow as well. Whether Tesla and other companies decide to maintain their current trajectory or change their approach remains an unanswered question.
Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.