Xinjiang has been a significant point of conflict between Western governments and China in recent years, as UN experts and rights groups estimate more than one million people, mainly Uighur Muslims and members of other Muslim minorities, have been detained in camps there.
China has rejected accusations of forced labor or other abuses there, saying the camps provide vocational training, stressing the company must respect its policies there.
Tesla announced the opening of a showroom in the regional capital of Xinjiang, Urumqi, on its official Weibo account last Friday. “On the last day of 2021 we meet in Xinjiang,” he wrote in the post, citing Reuters January 4.
On Tuesday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the country’s largest Muslim advocacy organization, criticized the move, saying Tesla “supported genocide”.
The United States has labeled China’s treatment of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang as genocide. Not only that, the United States and several other countries are planning a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February over this issue.
“Elon Musk should close Tesla’s showroom in Xinjiang,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations said on its official Twitter account, referring to the Tesla founder.
Similar criticism has come from the US trade group, the Alliance for American Manufacturing and US senator Marco Rubio.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The automaker operates a plant in Shanghai and ramped up production there amid soaring sales in China.
A number of foreign companies have in recent months been stumbled by tensions between the West and China over Xinjiang, as they try to balance Western pressure with China’s importance as a market and supply base.
In July, Swedish fashion retailer H&M reported a 23 percent decline in its local currency sales in China for the March-May quarter, after being hit by a consumer boycott in March for publicly declaring they do not buy products from Xinjiang.
Last month, US chipmaker Intel faced a similar call after telling its suppliers not to take products or labor from Xinjiang, prompting it to apologize for “the trouble caused to our esteemed Chinese customers, partners and the public”.
To be aware, though some have sought to reduce their supply chain exposure to the region, particularly as Washington has banned imports such as Xinjiang cotton. Or blacklisting Chinese companies said to have aided Beijing’s policies there, many foreign brands operating stores there.