Tesla has opened up a new showroom in Xinjiang, a province in China that has attracted international scrutiny and condemnation over its state-run internment camps.
Tesla, the electric vehicle company run by entrepreneur Elon Musk, announced over Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, Friday the opening of its new showroom, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“On the last day of 2021, we meet in Xinjiang. In 2022, let us together launch Xinjiang on its electric journey!” Tesla posted along with photos from the showroom’s opening ceremony and people posing with “Tesla (heart) Xinjiang” signs.
Xinjiang is an increasingly complicated problem for businesses as more Westerners recognize the human rights abuses ongoing in the province. The Chinese government, under the auspices of cracking down on terrorism, has overseen a massive forced assimilation and extermination program against the region’s ethnic minorities.
While western nations are growing increasingly harsh of the Chinese government and companies that do business in Xinjiang, the Chinese government remains especially sensitive to criticism stemming from its work in the region. China has lashed back at companies who so much as offer statements condemning human rights abuses in Xinjiang, often scoring apologies and retractions from those companies.
In December, Intel apologized to China after it ordered suppliers to not source components from Xinjiang. The U.S. chipmaker expressed “deep regret” for offending “our cherished Chinese partners” and blamed U.S. laws that ban the import of goods made in Xinjiang.
Tesla’s announcement sparked criticism from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) over the Xinjiang showroom.
“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,” the press Twitter account for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) posted.
On December 23, President Joe Biden signed legislation co-written by Rubio that bans U.S. imports of goods sourced from the Xinjiang region of China.
“This is the most important and impactful action taken thus far by the United States to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for their use of slave labor,” Rubio said in a statement at the time. “It will fundamentally change our relationship with Beijing. This law should also ensure that Americans no longer unknowingly buy goods made by slaves in China. I look forward to working with the Biden Administration and my colleagues to ensure the new law is implemented correctly and enforced properly.”
Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken added in a statement: “We will continue doing everything we can to restore the dignity of those who yearn to be free from forced labor. 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.”
The legislation followed weeks after the Department of Treasury sanctioned a group of individuals and companies involved in ongoing human rights abuses over the world, including in China’s Xinjiang province.