Electric vehicle maker Tesla owned by controversial business magnate and billionaire Elon Musk has opened a new sales and service centre in the also controversial Xinjiang region of China. Xinjiang is the home of the Uyghurs, a Muslim population that has been recognized as a discriminated group by the United Nation and other human rights organizations.
China has been in the news for a number of reasons of late and the Uyghur situation in Xinjiang was one of those things that didn’t put the country in a good spot. Last year, when the United Nations spoke about China’s Xinjiang situation, the body said that the country engages in “forced labour, mass detention in internment camps, forced sterilizations”, alongside other abuses that were just gory. The European Union also sanctioned China on charges of arbitrary detention of Uyghurs. China, has, however, repeatedly denied these claims and dismissed them as lies and disinformation.
Tesla’s announcement of its new dealership in Xinjiang was announced on Weibo, one of the country’s most popular platforms. The December 31st post when translated to English reads “The Urumqi Tesla Center officially opens #inanewdirection… As the first Tesla Center in Xinjiang, this location integrates sales, service and delivery. It will help Xinjiang users enjoy the experience of one-stop service, escorting Tesla car owners on their journey to the west”.
Another post that was shared later on the same date “#inanewdirection Urumqi Tesla Center has officially opened! On the last day of 2021, we meet in Xinjiang. In 2022, let’s begin Xinjiang’s journey to pure electric [vehicles]! Encounter even more beauty!”
As seen on Tesla’s website, it currently has one supercharger in Urumqi and plans to add another soon. The announcement has so many positive responses across social media. Many Chinese people took to social media to express their joy and appreciation concerning the move by Tesla. The same, however, cannot be said for US authorities.
A June 2021 report by NBS News clearly stated that Amnesty International researchers found that “Chinese authorities in the western region of Xinjiang have been rounding up women and men — largely Muslims from the Uighur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz ethnic minorities — and detaining them in camps designed to rid them of terrorist or extremist leanings since 2017. More than 1 million Uighurs and other minorities from Xinjiang are believed to be held in internment camps, where they are forced to study Marxism, renounce their religion, work in factories and face abuse, according to human rights groups and first-hand accounts. Beijing says these ‘re-education camps’ provide vocational training and are necessary to fight extremism”.
The US, alongside other countries and international bodies, have been coming up with strategies to fight the situation in Xinjiang. Recently, US senators approved a bill banning the importation of anything from Xinjiang unless there’s proof that they were produced without forced labour.
In a press statement by US Senator Marco Rubio, the author of the aforementioned bill, speaking about Tesla he said that “Nationless corporations are helping the Chinese Communist Party cover up genocide and slave labour in the region”.
Of course, Tesla refused to respond to requests for comments.
On Monday, Tesla posted its car deliveries record for the fourth quarter and they surpassed the expectation of analysts. The company’s shares also soared 13 percent on the announcement of its vehicle deliveries record.