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China blasts US 'hypocrisy' over Tesla Xinjiang showroom

January 6, 2022

A new Tesla showroom in the Xinjiang region has caused outrage in the United States. China has said its critics want to "carry out economic coercion and political repression."

A security guard walks past Tesla cars being charged in Beijing, China
China is a key market for Tesla, which already operates showrooms in many Chinese citiesImage: Ng Han Guan/AP Photo/picture alliance

China on Thursday hit out at criticism in the US against Tesla after the car maker opened a showroom in China's controversial Xinjiang region.

The company, headed by billionaire Elon Musk, opened the showroom in the city of Urumqi on New Year's Eve.

Condemnation followed, but China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin accused the critics of "hypocrisy" and said they "carry out economic coercion and political repression against China under the guise of human rights."

Tesla slammed by US politicians and rights groups

China has long been accused of a large-scale crackdown on the Uyghur minority group in Xinjiang.

On Tuesday, the biggest US Muslim advocacy group, The Council on American-Islamic Relations, urged Tesla to close its Urumqi showroom.

"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," the group wrote on Twitter.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio accused Tesla of "helping the Chinese Communist Party cover up genocide and slave labor in the region."

Rubio sponsored a bill signed in December by US President Joe Biden that bars imports of goods from Xinjiang.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she would not comment directly on Tesla's action, she said that the "private sector should oppose the PRC (People's Republic of China) human rights abuses and genocide in Xinjiang."

"The international community, including the public and private sectors, cannot look the other way when it comes to what is taking place in Xinjiang."

Wang on Thursday again dismissed the accusations  as "lies that have long been exposed by the facts."

Amnesty: China committing 'crimes against humanity'

But China has previously admitted to keeping Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking minorities at "vocational training centres"  to ensure militant activities are "eliminated before they occur."

Campaigners said at least a million people had been detained in camps in Xinjiang.

China and Musk have an uneasy relationship

While China was supporting Tesla, it was less impressed with Musk's other company, SpaceX.

Late in December, China complained that its space station was forced to avoid collisions with SpaceX Starlink satellites, once in July and another time in October.

The country lodged complaints with the UN's space agency.

At the time, another Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian called on the US to act responsibly in space.

lo/fb (AFP, Reuters)