Updated January 21st, 2022 at 14:16 IST

Tesla's expansion in China's Xinjiang misguided & ‘sets a poor example’, say US lawmakers

“Evidence of the genocide in Xinjiang is well documented,” Chairmen of the House Ways and Means Subcommittees on Oversight and Trade asserted in the letter.

Reported by: Zaini Majeed
Edited by: Zaini Majeed
IMAGE: AP | Image:self

Chairmen of two congressional panels on US oversight and trade committee on Thursday, Jan. 20 derided the American electrical car manufacturing company Tesla’s ‘misguided’ decision of launching a showroom in China’s far-western Xinjiang region, the center of a political tussle between China and the West due to former’s human rights abuses against the Uyghur minority community. The top House Democrats accused Tesla of “enabling gross human rights violations” in a letter to the company’s CEO Elon Musk. 

“We are dismayed that Tesla has reportedly opened a showroom in the province that is at the heart of China’s Uyghur detainment in camps and forced labor in factories,” Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) wrote in the letter to Tesla. 

"As Chairmen of the Oversight and Trade Subcommittees, our panels are deeply interested in exploring ways to improve US national security imperiled by the offshoring of our industrial capacity, and undermining of our national security by contributing to labour abuses," they added, demanding a response on how Tesla makes or manufactured goods, and information on any financial relations with companies connected to the Xinjiang.

Democrat lawmakers stressed that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) commits ‘genocide’ against the Uyghur minority community, and has hostile actions towards America and its allies. “Your misguided expansion into the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region sets a poor example and further empowers the CCP at a fraught moment,” the two lawmakers stated in the letter penned to the Tesla CEO.

 In January, Tesla launched a showroom in Xinjiang, despite the fact that the Chinese province is under international scrutiny for human rights abuses across the camps and detention facilities holding the Uyghur Muslims. The company opened the showroom in the city of Urumqi on New Year's Eve, with an announcement on a Weibo post on 31 December that read: “On the last day of 2021, we meet in Xinjiang. In 2022 let us together launch Xinjiang on its electric journey!” The post demonstrated photos with Chinese people holding banners with text: “Tesla [heart] Xinjiang”.

US lawmakers list Biden's Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, demand compliance report

Biden signed an executive order last month approving the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act that banned goods imported from China’s Xinjiang, manufactured from forces Uyghur Labour. The legislation also allows the US to sanction the entities that purchase the goods produced by the forced labour of Uyghur's from the Xinjiang region unless they prove otherwise. The Uyghur rights groups widely criticized Tesla’s opening of the showroom, reportedly its 211th in China. US lawmakers are now demanding the electric carmaker about its Chinese product sourcing. In the letter, lawmakers Pascrell and Blumenauer enquired whether Tesla sources any goods made or manufactured in Xinjiang, and if so, they asked Elon Musk to “identify them.” 

“Evidence of the genocide in Xinjiang is well documented,” Chairmen of the House Ways and Means Subcommittees on Oversight and Trade asserted in the letter.

“From the farm to finished goods, forced labor in the region appears to be prevalent at all levels of the supply chain because of the CCP’s internment of more than one million Uyghurs, as well as forced labor by prisoners incarcerated in the Chinese government’s penal system,” they added. 

Accusing the CCP politburo standing committee of tightening its “totalitarian grip” over virtually every sector, the lawmakers said that the American business cannot empower the gross human rights violations of the CCP anymore. They also reminded Elon Musk of the National Critical Capabilities Defence Act (H.R.6329) that empowers the US federal government with the tools to prevent more American jobs from going overseas, such as in China.

Lawmakers questioned Tesla’s ‘corporate attitude’ as they said that the 2021 US-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s annual report to Congress has found that “nearly 85 percent of [US business] respondents are not considering relocating manufacturing or sourcing from China. The American companies, they asserted, must stand in opposition to forced labor and human rights abuses “that are tantamount to genocide.” The only country that has singled out this sentiment against the “egregious violations of labour and human rights” by China is North Korea, the letter read. 

Lawmakers have asked responses on some of the key matters related to Tesla’s showroom in Xinjiang to understand Tesla’s compliance with Biden’s Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act (Public Law No: 117-78) and other US trade laws:

  • Does Tesla source any goods made or manufactured wholly or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region? If so, please list all goods and denote if the good is made or manufactured. 
  • Does Tesla have any financial relations with companies connected to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region? If so, please describe the nature of those relations. 
  • To confirm if the news reports are true that Tesla is planning to expand into the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. If so, please describe why Tesla is operating in the heart of a region under increased scrutiny for genocide. 
  • To describe how Tesla is not contributing to or financially benefiting from the forced labour practises rampant in the region. 
  • Does Tesla plan to expand into other regions in China?

Published January 21st, 2022 at 14:16 IST

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