US lawmakers slam Elon Musk after Tesla opens in China despite warnings of slavery and genocide

·2 min read
(AFP via Getty Images)

Democrat lawmakers have joined Republicans in scolding Elon Musk for opening a Tesla showroom in Xinjiang, where China is accused of slavery and genocide against Uighur Muslims.

In a rare showing of bipartisan agreement, two Democratic congressmen who oversee trade wrote to Musk demanding to know whether Tesla sourced its materials and products from forced-labour camps in Xinjiang.

“Your misguided expansion into the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region sets a poor example and further empowers the (Chinese government),” Democrats Bill Pascrell and Earl Blumenauer wrote in a joint letter.

They also questioned whether Tesla had a financial relationship with companies connected to Xinjiang and whether Tesla plans to expand into other regions in China, Reuters reported.

They join Republican Marco Rubio, who responded to the Xinjiang showroom opening by tweeting: “Nationless corporations are helping the Chinese Communist Party cover up genocide and slave labour in the region.”

Mr Rubio sponsored the bill signed into law in December that requires firms to prove products imported from Xinjiang were not produced by Uighur slave labour.

While Tesla’s factory is based in Shanghai, the House of Representatives Ways and Means subcommittees wants to know if Musk plans to expand production into other regions amid surging sales in China.

Tesla makes more than half its vehicles in China, helping it achieve its first year of profitability in 2020, according to an investigation by The Wall Street Journal.

The increased pressure on companies working in China comes after a billionaire owner of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors said “nobody cares” about the human rights abuses against the Muslim minority.

In a podcast episode of All-In, the Sri Lankan-born Canadian investor Chamath Palihapitiya told host Jason Calacanis that “nobody, nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs”.

The Golden State Warriors ignored China’s treatment of the Uighurs in their statement distancing themselves from Mr Palihapitiya, saying his “views certainly don’t reflect those of our organisation”.