China’s Global Times propaganda newspaper branded all criticism of Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk for operating in Xinjiang, a Chinese region where the Communist Party is currently committing genocide, “political depravity” in an editorial published on Thursday.
Tesla announced this week that it would open a car showroom in Urumqi, the capital of East Turkistan, or what the Communist Party refers to as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Province. Urumqi is a police state where the native Uyghur population is subject to incessant surveillance, and millions of them have disappeared into concentration camps. The move to open a showroom there was particularly shocking to much of the world because companies that had previously done business in the region have begun to move out to other parts of China – where evidence suggests factories have been flooded with Uyghur slaves – in response to pressure from human rights groups.
In America, Congress passed a law last month that would prohibit American businesses from importing anything from Xinjiang unless it could document that the supply chain responsible for the goods was not tainted by Uyghur slavery.
The Global Times branded the law, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, an “evil domestic law based on lies” in its Thursday editorial in support of Tesla. It speculated that, should Tesla’s Urumqi showroom prove itself as a worthy investment, it may encourage other global companies to do business there, outraging human rights advocates and victims of the Communist Party.
“The so-called Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act is an evil domestic law based on lies. Multinational companies operating in China are not obliged to abide by it at all,” the editorial asserted. “Tesla opened a showroom in Xinjiang to sell vehicles, which has nothing to do with using ‘forced labor’ within their supply chains.”
“If Tesla develops well in Xinjiang,” the state newspaper speculated, “it will open a window for the international community to understand the real situation in Xinjiang. Just like a small needle can easily pierce a big balloon, the more people know the truth of Xinjiang, the more difficult it will be for Washington to continue its political scheme.”
The Global Times, in particular, condemned Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), one of the lawmakers behind the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, and Jen Psaki, the White House Press Secretary. Psaki irritated the government publication by weighing in on Tesla’s move into Xinjiang when directly asked during a press briefing on Tuesday.
“I can’t speak to the specific situation of one company [Tesla], but as a general matter, we believe the private sector should oppose [China’s] human rights abuses and genocide in Xinjiang,” Psaki said. “The international community, including the public and private sectors, cannot look the other way when it comes to what is taking place in Xinjiang.”
Psaki threatened “serious legal, reputational, and customer risks” for companies whose supply chains go through Xinjiang slave labor, adding, “we’ve been clear about our views on the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.”
No evidence exists at press time that Tesla’s Urumqi location will run afoul of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, as Tesla has not indicated that it will be constructing any products there or importing them into the United States. Nonetheless, the Global Times condemned Psaki’s statement as having “no rigorous legal or moral logic” and accused both her and other critics of Tesla of launching “bottomless and immoral attacks.”
“It’s fair to say this is a kind of political depravity,” the outlet concluded.
Tesla’s decision to disregard atrocities in Xinjiang outraged human rights activists and leaders in the communities affected by the ongoing genocide of the Uyghur people in the region – complaints that the Global Times dismissed shortly after Tesla’s announcement as lies. Among the critics of the move were officials in Human Rights Watch and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
“This is outrageous. To open a showroom in a region where genocide is being perpetrated is scandalous. Elon Musk and Tesla should re-think, quickly,” said Hong Kong Watch chief executive Benedict Rogers.
“So how is Elon Musk going to avoid complicity in the Chinese government’s use of forced Uyghur Muslim labor in Xinjiang as Tesla opens a showroom there?” Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth asked. “Does he suddenly have a transparent supply chain that Beijing allows to no one else?”
CAIR referred to the new showroom as “economic support for genocide.”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has lavished the Chinese Communist Party with praise publicly long before moving Tesla’s business into the Uyghur region.
“To be totally frank, I’ve seen some crazy things so, you know, I think it’s, like – I really think China is the future,” Musk asserted in 2019.
“China rocks in my opinion. The energy in China is great. People there – there’s like a lot of smart, hard-working people,” Musk said on a podcast a year later. “And they’re really — they’re not entitled, they’re not complacent, whereas I see in the United States increasingly much more complacency and entitlement especially in places like the Bay Area, and L.A. and New York.”