Tesla has opened a new showroom in the capital of Xinjiang, a region at the heart of a campaign of repression and assimilation waged for years by the Chinese authorities against the Uyghur people.

Tesla announced the opening in Urumqi with an article on Weibo on December 31st saying, “On the last day of 2021, we meet in Xinjiang. In 2022, let’s launch Xinjiang together on its electric journey! “

The message was accompanied by photos of the opening festivities, including people holding signs reading “Tesla [heart] Xinjiang ”.

The United States has enacted a series of sanctions and regulatory and other measures against China for its continued human rights violations in Xinjiang, including restrictions on US trade relations with local operators and suppliers.

President Joe Biden signed the Uyghur forced labor prevention law last month, and the US government intends to carry out a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics.

Uyghur rights groups have criticized the opening of the showroom, which is said to be Tesla’s 211st in China. The Council on American-Islamic Relations called for its immediate closure and the cessation of what it claimed “amounted to economic support for the genocide.”

“No American company should do business in an area that is the focal point of a campaign of genocide targeting a religious and ethnic minority,” said the council’s director of national communications, Ibrahim Hooper.

Australian Human Rights Watch researcher Sophie McNeill said: “Beijing and businesses have long relied on a global drive to put profits before human rights, even in the face of crimes against humanity, but we must not allow this to continue in 2022.

“Elon Musk and his Tesla leaders must consider human rights in Xinjiang or risk being complicit. “

Tesla has been contacted for comment.

Tesla’s move has garnered some support on Chinese social media and follows revelations a week earlier that U.S. technology company Intel had asked suppliers not to source goods, services or labor. work in the region.

One commentator praised Tesla’s support for “the development and construction of Xinjiang, unlike other companies,” an apparent reference to multinationals seeking to cut trade ties with Xinjiang due to rights violations.

Last month, Intel was accused by state media of offending the Chinese market after writing to suppliers asking them to avoid using “any labor force or source of goods or services. the Xinjiang region, ”citing restrictions imposed by several governments. After a backlash, the company issued a letter “deeply apologizing for the confusion,” saying the request was a matter of compliance with US law and did not represent its position on Xinjiang.

Business operations in China have become difficult as international brands come under increasing pressure to sever ties with suppliers in Xinjiang if they cannot guarantee the absence of forced labor or other abuse.

Companies such as H&M and Intel have been widely criticized or threatened with boycotts in China for their decisions to move the brand away from the Xinjiang workforce and products. Case studies of such massive reactions online have revealed that the nationalist backlash is often provoked or amplified by Chinese state media and state-linked social media accounts.

Xinjiang is the site of a long campaign of forced assimilation by the Chinese authorities against ethnic minorities including Uyghur Muslims. It is estimated that a million people have been held in mass detention and re-education centers, and the population as a whole is subjected to the suppression of religious and cultural activities, surveillance and policing. intense, suspected forced labor programs and forced birth control.

Governments, including the United States, have declared the campaign a genocide, while several human and legal rights groups have declared the actions to constitute crimes against humanity.

Beijing denies all accusations of human rights violations and says its policies are part of counterterrorism efforts and poverty reduction programs.