China accused Washington of hypocrisy on Thursday after US politicians and rights groups criticized carmaker Tesla for opening a dealership in Xinjiang, the site of alleged widespread human rights abuses such as arbitrary detentions, torture and forced labor camps.
The US electric carmaker announced the opening of its new showroom in the northwestern region’s capital Urumqi on New Year’s Eve, welcoming followers on the Chinese social media platform to “start Xinjiang’s electric journey together”.
The announcement prompted a backlash from US politicians including Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who accused Tesla on Twitter of “helping the Chinese Communist Party cover up genocide and slave labor in the region”.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that the “international community, including the public and private sectors, cannot look the other way when it comes to what is taking place in Xinjiang”.
But China on Thursday hit out at the criticism, accusing the United States of “hypocrisy” and attempting to “carry out economic coercion and political repression against China under the guise of human rights”.
At a regular press conference, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin dismissed abuse allegations as “lies that have long been exposed by the facts”.
Campaigners say at least one million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim minorities have been detained in camps in Xinjiang.
After initially denying the existence of the Xinjiang camps, China later defended them as vocational training centers aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism.
US-based NGO the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) urged Tesla to close its Urumqi showroom.
The group’s communication director Ibrahim Hooper said Monday that “no American corporation should be doing business in a region that is the focal point of a campaign of genocide targeting a religious and ethnic minority”.
Human rights groups and foreign governments have also found evidence of what they say is mass imprisonment, forced labor, political indoctrination, torture and forced sterilization. Washington has described it as genocide.
Tesla is the latest foreign company to find itself struggling to appease both Chinese and international markets over Xinjiang.
Fast-fashion giant H&M is still blocked from major e-commerce apps in China after state media launched a boycott over the Swedish company’s promise to avoid Xinjiang cotton due to forced labor allegations.
Tesla did not immediately respond to AFP‘s request for comment.