The Wall Street Journal points out that on New Year’s Eve, Tesla revealed on its Weibo page the launch of a new dealership in Xinjiang, a region where the Chinese government has been accused of human rights violations against Uyghur Muslims.
Just over a week ago, President Joe Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that “[we] call on the Government of the People’s Republic of China to immediately end genocide and crimes against humanity against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.”
Earlier in December, the Treasury Department sanctioned several Chinese companies for their alleged participation in the abuses, including drone maker DJI, blocking US investments in the company, and the Biden administration announced plans for a “diplomatic boycott” during the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Now Tesla has a showroom in Urumqi, the region’s capital. The automaker has had an uneven relationship with China’s government for years, including when it signed a deal to open a factory in Shanghai and at the beginning of 2021, when that factory’s output helped push Tesla to its first annual profit.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, the US accusations of genocide are based on reports that the Chinese government has imprisoned over 1 million Uyghur people and other minorities in the region, subjugating them with forced labor, surveillance, and population controls. The Chinese government maintains that its “facts and truth on Xinjiang-related issues” refute the allegations and claims that it’s imposed measures like real-time GPS vehicle tracking to fight terrorism.
Other US companies have been linked to the region, including reports that Apple suppliers had used forced labor, while Best Buy and Home Depot removed security cameras they were selling after the brands were linked to surveillance. Most recently, Intel made a statement that it would not use labor or goods sourced in the region before deleting the post and apologizing on Chinese social media sites, saying “the paragraph about Xinjiang in the letter is only for expressing the original intention of compliance and legality, not for its intention or position.”
Tesla dissolved its PR department in 2019 and has not commented on the new location.