Tesla Inc (NYSE: TSLA) has opened a new showroom in China’s Xinjiang region. This remote part of China is where authorities are conducting a forcible assimilation campaign against religious minorities. Unfortunately, these said campaigns are slowly becoming a public relations nightmare for Western-based brands.
The Texas-based electric vehicle manufacturer has already started operations at this new showroom and made this announcement on Weibo, a social media platform similar to Twitter, on Friday.
Tesla posted on Weibo, saying:
On the last day of 2021, we meet in Xinjiang. In 2022, let us together launch Xinjiang on its electric journey!
They accompanied this post with pictures from the opening ceremony. In the picture, people held placards that read “Tesla (heart) Xinjiang” and traditional Chinese lion dances.
The company’s spokesperson based in the region wasn’t available to talk more about the event because of the public holiday.
Tesla and the Chinese market
Widely revered in China, the electric car manufacturer has rapidly broadened its footprint in one of the most populous countries in the world. However, with Tesla’s recent expansion, the auto manufacturer risks getting into a reputational blackhole that has recently swallowed other huge American corporations like Intel Corp and Walmart.
Researchers say Xinjiang-based authorities have detained almost a million Uyghurs and other members of Muslim minority groups as part of China’s assimilation campaign. The researchers say this includes stringent birth controls, forced labor, and mass surveillance.
The United States government, alongside other Western lawmakers, have claimed that these policies are some kind of genocide in a way.
What does China say?
The Chinese government has dismissed these allegations and has said the charge of genocide is a mere fabrication. Beijing has described its campaign in the region as an effort to counter terrorism and religious extremism.
Xinjiang has become somewhat of a litmus test for Western-based corporations that intend to do business in China. Those corporations that embrace the are risk of reputational blowback and regulatory trouble in their home markets. However, those that shun the region risk facing the wrath of the Chinese government.
Walmart is one of the most recent Western-based companies caught up in this public relations dilemma.