Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been accused of ‘economic support for genocide’ after the company opened a new showroom in China’s Xinjiang region, despite the country’s detention of potentially millions of Uyghur Muslims.
Tesla’s announcement quickly attracted criticism from rights and trade groups, making it the latest foreign firm caught up in tensions related to the Chinese region.
U.N. experts and rights groups estimate more than a million people, mainly Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities, have been detained in camps there.
As a result, Xinjiang has become a significant point of conflict between Western governments and China in recent years, with a London tribunal ruling last month that China was carrying out genocide of Uyghur Muslims in the region.
Despite the tensions, the U.S. electric car maker announced the showroom’s opening in Xinjiang’s regional capital, Urumqi, on its official Weibo account last Friday.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk (pictured) has been accused of ‘economic support for genocide’ after the company opened a new showroom in China’s Xinjiang region, despite the country’s detention of potentially millions of Uyghur Muslims
‘On the last day of 2021 we meet in Xinjiang,’ Tesla said in the post. ‘Let’s start Xinjiang’s all-electric journey!’
The country had long-planned to open the showroom for sales, delivery and customer service purposes, according to The Times.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, an American organisation based in Washington, D.C., on Monday urged Tesla and its chairman, Elon Musk, to close the showroom and ‘cease what amounts to economic support for genocide.’
‘No American corporation should be doing business in a region that is the focal point of a campaign of genocide targeting a religious and ethnic minority,’ the group’s communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, said in a statement.
The United States has also labelled China’s treatment of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang as genocide. The United States and a few other countries plan a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February over the issue.
China has rejected the accusations of forced labour or any other abuses there, saying that the camps provide vocational training and that companies should respect its policies there.
‘Elon Musk must close Tesla’s Xinjiang showroom,’ Council on American-Islamic Relations also said on its official Twitter account, referring to Tesla’s founder.
Similar criticism came from a U.S. trade group, the Alliance for American Manufacturing, and U.S. senator Marco Rubio.
A receptionist works at a Tesla showroom in Beijing, China, Jan. 4, 2022. American-based activists are appealing to Tesla Inc. to close a new showroom in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, where officials are accused of abuses against mostly Muslim ethnic minorities
‘Nationless corporations are helping the Chinese Communist Party cover up genocide and slave labour in the region,’ Rubio said on Twitter.
Executive director of Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth wrote: ‘What is @Tesla thinking, choosing to open a showroom in Xinjiang as the Chinese government, through its mass detention and persecution, is committing crimes against humanity there against Uyghur/Turkic Muslims.’
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters news agency. The carmaker operates a factory in Shanghai and is ramping up production there amid surging sales in China.
Pressure on foreign companies to take positions on Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan and other politically charged issues has been rising.
The ruling Communist Party pushes companies to adopt its positions in their advertising and on websites. It has attacked clothing and other brands that express concern about reports of forced labour and other abuses in Xinjiang.
A slew of foreign firms in recent months have been tripped up by these 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.
Xinjiang has become a significant point of conflict between Western governments and China in recent years, with a London tribunal ruling last month that China was carrying out genocide of Uyghur Muslims in the region
On Friday, the ruling party’s discipline agency threatened Walmart Inc. with a boycott after some shoppers complained online they couldn’t find goods from Xinjiang in its Walmart and Sam’s Club stores in China.
In December, Intel Corp., the world’s biggest maker of computer chips, apologised for asking suppliers to avoid sourcing goods from Xinjiang after the state press attacked the company and comments online called for a boycott of its goods.
The United States has barred imports of goods from Xinjiang unless they can be shown not to be made by forced labour.
Other foreign auto brands including Volkswagen, General Motors and Nissan Motor Co. have showrooms in Xinjiang operated by the automakers’ Chinese joint-venture partners. VW also operates a factory in Urumqi.
In July, Swedish fashion retailer H&M reported a 23 percent drop in local currency sales in China for its March-May quarter after it was hit by a consumer boycott in March for stating publicly that it did not source products from Xinjiang.
Although some have been trying to reduce their supply chain exposure to the region, especially as Washington bans imports such as Xinjiang cotton or blacklists Chinese companies that it says have aided Beijing’s policy there, many foreign brands operate stores there.
China is one of Tesla’s biggest markets. The company’s first factory outside the United States opened in Shanghai in 2019.
Meanwhile, it was reported on Tuesday that Tesla founder Elon Mask has added $32.6 billion to his net worth, bringing his fortune to $304.2 billion.
Musk’s windfall once again took his worth over the $300 billion mark that he briefly passed in November, becoming the first person to ever do so.
According to Forbes, the controversial social-media savvy billionaire – who is also the founder behind the commercial space enterprise SpaceX – remained at the top of the world’s rich list going into the new year.
In second place and $103.6 billion behind Musk is Bernard Arnault, the CEO of French fashion empire LVMH. Amazon founder and former-CEO Jeff Bezos sits in third place, Forbes said.
Tesla’s soaring stock price has again been credited for the South African’s growing wealth.
Tesla delivers a record 936,172 electric cars in 2021 despite supply chain issues
Tesla delivered more than 936,000 vehicles last year, a record figure that represents an 87 percent increase from its 2020 delivery count despite a number of hurdles the electric carmaker faced during the past year.
The Austin, Texas-based company announced its fourth-quarter production and delivery results Sunday – just days after it recalled nearly half a million Model 3 and Model S cars to address issues that increase the risk of crashing.
And last February, Tesla told workers it would temporarily halt some production at its car assembly plant in California as it faced a semiconductor shortage.
Workers on a Model 3 sedan production line in Fremont were told their line would be down from February 22 until March 7, a person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News.
Despite the challenges Elon Musk’s electric car empire faced during the past year – including chip shortages and whistleblower scandals – demand for the sleek, futuristic cars has only grown.
The amount of cars delivered last year dwarfs company figures from yearend 2020, when 499,550 vehicles were shipped to customers.
Of the sales made last year, Tesla’s Model 3 and Model Y rides accounted for 911,208 – or 97 percent – of the 936,172 vehicles delivered. Its most budget-friendly Model 3 sedan retails for $46,490 and up, while the Model Y midsized SUV starts around $61,000.
It delivered 24,964 of its pricier Model S and Model X vehicles; its only full-sized SUV, the Model X is tagged about $110,000 while the flagship Model S starts about $100,000.
Tesla in 2020 delivered 57,039 of its Model S and X vehicles in 2020, and 442,511 Model 3 and Model Y cars.
It delivered 112,000 vehicles in 2019.
Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives said the latest numbers are ‘jaw-dropping’ given the ongoing global chip shortage affecting the automotive industry.
Ives said the production increase was likely boosted by growing demand from car buyers in China, as well as broader enthusiasm for electric vehicles.
Musk also chimed in on the accomplishment, tweeting: ‘Great work by Tesla team worldwide!’
Tesla’s brand image took some hits last year, most recently last week when it recalled 356,309 Model 3 vehicles made between 2017 and 2020 due to problems with the rearview camera and 119,009 Model S vehicles due to front trunk problems.
Tesla warned that for the specific Model 3 vehicles, opening and closing the trunk could damage the cable harness attaching the rearview camera, causing the camera to suddenly fail.
And the Model S issue could stop the front trunk from latching, allowing it to swing up while the vehicle is in motion.
According to Tesla, only about one percent of the Model 3 cars have the flaw, compared with 14 percent of the Model S vehicles.