Last week Tesla opened their newest retail location in China in the northwestern Xinjiang region, announcing the opening on their official Weibo account.
The over 17,000 square foot sales, service, and delivery center was the 211th location in the Chinese mainland, but has been the recipient of the most criticism since its opening.
The criticism is centered on China’s treatment of more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the region. The U.S. State Department and a number of other governments say the minorities have been placed in detention centers across the region, a claim with Chinese officials have rejected on numerous occasions.
“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,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement on December 27, 2021.
Following the opening, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Tesla should close the showroom and “cease what amounts to economic support for genocide.”
U.S. politicians have also voiced their concerns, like Senator Marco Rubio. The Senator, who helped craft the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, called out Tesla as being a “nationless corporation” that is “helping the Chinese Communist Party cover up genocide and slave labor in the region.”
Right after President Biden signed Sen. Rubio’s Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act into law, @Tesla opened a store in #Xinjiang. Nationless corporations are helping the Chinese Communist Party cover up genocide and slave labor in the region. https://t.co/2yWBTQSLbM
— Senator Rubio Press (@SenRubioPress) January 3, 2022
While the concerns are certainly valid, and Senator Rubio’s comments make for catchy sound bites against the U.S. based automaker everyone loves to bash, it would probably serve their cause to also go after the likes of Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, and others that already have a physical presence in the region.
Other businesses have taken a stance on the alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Sam’s Club recently pulled goods from its store shelves that were believed to have been sourced from the region.
Intel has also waded into the matter, sending a letter to suppliers last month saying it “is required to ensure our supply chain does not use any labor or source goods or services from the Xinjiang region.”
Showing how treacherous and complicated it can be for foreign companies to do business in China, Intel later apologized on Weibo saying the letter “caused many questions and concerns among our cherished Chinese partners, which we deeply regret.”
Tesla’s US headquarters, or Tesla China, has not commented on the subject since the store’s opening.