The backlash came shortly after Tesla announced the store opening in a Dec. 31 blog post on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform.
The store is located in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, where Chinese authorities have targeted Uyghur Muslims and other religious minority groups in a crackdown the US government has labeled a genocide.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), was among those who condemned the store opening. Rubio co-authored the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, a newly passed law banning imports from Xinjiang unless businesses can prove the products weren’t made with forced labor.
“Nationless corporations are helping the Chinese Communist Party cover up genocide and slave labor in the region,” Rubio’s office tweeted.
Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said Tesla’s decision was “especially despicable.”
“I’ll be blunt: Any company doing business in Xinjiang is complicit in the cultural genocide taking place there,” Paul said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group, called on Tesla to immediately close the store.
“By doing business in China’s Xinjiang Province, where millions of Uyghur Muslims are being held in concentration camps and forced labor facilities, Tesla is supporting genocide. Elon Musk must close Tesla’s Xinjiang showroom,” the group said.
Tesla representatives did not return the Post’s requests for comment on the situation.
The company’s announcement on Weibo included photos from an opening ceremony at the store. The post included images of people holding signs that read, “Tesla [heart] Xinjiang.”
Tesla also operates a factory in Shanghai.
“On the last day of 2021, we meet in Xinjiang. In 2022, let us launch Xinjiang on its electric journey together,” Tesla’s post said.
Beijing is accused of establishing internment camps and forced labor facilities in a brutal crackdown on religious and ethnic groups in Xinjiang. The Chinese government denies the allegations.
Tesla is the latest US company to face criticism over its activity in Xinjiang.
Last month, Intel faced scrutiny after it apologized in China for urging supplies not to source goods from the province. Prominent retailers such as Walmart, H&M and Nike faced calls for a boycott after expressing concern about forced labor in the region.
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