The chairs of two congressional panels on oversight and trade attacked Tesla’s expansion into China’s far-western Xinjiang region, where massive internment camps have drawn heavy criticism, asking the electric-car maker about the supply of Chinese products.
“Their misguided expansion into the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region sets a bad example and further empowers the CCP. [Chinese government] at a tense time,” Democrats Bill Pascrell and Earl Blumenauer, who head two House ways and means subcommittees, wrote in a joint letter to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Tesla made an announcement on New Year’s Eve that it was opening a showroom in Xinjiang, becoming the latest foreign company caught up in tensions related to the region.
“On the last day of 2021, we meet in Xinjiang. In 2022, let’s launch Xinjiang on its electric journey together!” a Weibo post announcement is read on December 31.
Xinjiang has in recent years become a major point of conflict between Western governments and China. UN experts and human rights groups estimate that more than 1 million people, mainly Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities, have been detained in camps there.
“We are dismayed that Tesla has reportedly opened a showroom in the province that is at the center of China’s detention of Uyghurs in camps and forced labor in factories,” Pascrell and Blumenauer write in the letter. dated January 19.
The presidents asked Musk if Tesla sources any products made or manufactured in Xinjiang and, if so, to identify them. They also asked if Tesla had any financial relationships with companies connected to Xinjiang and if Tesla planned to expand to other regions of China.
The company operates a factory in Shanghai, where it is ramping up production amid rising sales in China. China has also become an export hub for Tesla to Europe and other markets.
US President Joe Biden and other lawmakers have increased pressure on companies to distance themselves from Xinjiang. Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act on Dec. 23 that bans imports of goods made in the region. The two lawmakers said the questions to Musk were in part to “better understand Tesla’s compliance” with the new law and other US business regulations.
The United States has called China’s treatment of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang genocide, enacting a series of sanctions and regulatory measures against Beijing, including restrictions on US business dealings with local carriers and suppliers.
The US government also intends to conduct a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics.
China has rejected all accusations of human rights abuses or forced labor and says its policies are part of anti-terrorism efforts and poverty alleviation programs.
The Chinese embassy in Washington and Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism