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Uyghurs: Tesla is controversial by opening a concession in Xinjiang

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A criticized presence. American electric vehicle maker Tesla is in turmoil after its leader, Elon Musk, decided to open a showroom for the brand in China’s Xinjiang province.

Concretely, this new Tesla showcase has been installed in Urumqi, the state capital. This region is particularly criticized by human rights associations for the practice of forced assimilation and internment of Uyghurs, a Chinese Muslim minority.

Under fire from critics, Tesla however bragged about this establishment on Weibo, a Chinese social network: “For 2022, let’s launch together the electric trip of Xinjiang!”. It must be said that Elon Musk, the boss of Tesla, is particularly popular in China. The country is today the number one foreign market for Tesla and in 2018 a factory was even opened there.

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Xinjiang is today the main point of tension in the conflict between certain Western governments and China. Human rights associations and NGOs estimate that more than a million people, Uyghurs and other minorities, have been interned in camps located in the region.

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Elon Musk facing the West

With this establishment, Elon Musk probably does not wish to get involved in political affairs between the West and China.

In December 2021, the United States banned the importation of goods from Xinjiang: “If you are a company that produces in this region, you will have to prove that it was not slaves who made them. The presumption hangs over you, ”said Marco Rubio, Republican senator from Florida.

On Tuesday, January 4, the Council on American-Islamic Relations sharply criticized Elon Musk’s behavior. “Elon Musk and Tesla must close this new exhibition hall and cease what amounts to economic support for the genocide,” demanded Ibrahim Hooper, the organization’s communications director.

However, the opening of the Tesla showroom in this region of northwest China comes in a particular context also for Elon Musk. Indeed, the Chinese government has filed a complaint against him with the United Nations. The American businessman is accused of endangering the Chinese orbital station during the Space X satellite launches between July and October 2021.

Other US companies are stuck in the Sino-US conflict

Tesla isn’t the only company facing criticism for its business. This is particularly the case of Intel, which was pinned by China. The electronics component maker had to apologize after a letter was published asking its suppliers not to source products or labor from the Xinjiang region, sparking strong backlash in China. “Although our initial intention was to ensure compliance with US laws, this letter has raised many questions and concerns among our dear Chinese partners, which we deeply regret,” the company said.

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