In early January 2022, the world’s largest car company announced the opening of a dealership in the Xinjiang province of China. The company immediately came under fire from human rights and trade groups in the U.S. due to the controversial detainment of Uyghur Muslims in the region. China claims the camps, which hold an estimated 1.4 million Uyghur Muslims, provide vocational training and education meant to combat Islamic extremism. However, reports of forced sterilization, physical abuse, and people vanishing have led foreign governments to claim that China has been using the camps to commit genocide and erasure of the Uyghurs’ culture.
Tesla’s decision to open a commercial location in that region resists a bill signed by President Joe Biden in December 2021. The bill was a bipartisan compromise in the House and Senate that banned imports of materials from Xinjiang unless accompanied by that no coerced labor was used.
Tesla is hardly the only car company invested in the Xinjiang region. German car company Volkswagen has had a factory in Xinjiang since 2013 but denies that any forced labor has been used in the manufacturing of their cars. As the car market in China continues to grow and those in Europe and the U.S. remain stagnant, it remains to be seen whether other automakers will ignore diplomatic tensions and expand into Xinjiang.