Activists are appealing to Tesla to close a new showroom in China’s north-western region of Xinjiang, where government officials are accused of abuses against mostly Muslim ethnic minorities.
The appeals add to pressure on foreign companies to take positions on Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan and other politically charged issues related to China.
The ruling Communist Party pressures companies to adopt its positions across their advertising and on websites.
It has attacked clothing and other brands which have expressed concern about reports of forced labour and other abuses in Xinjiang.
On Friday, Tesla announced the opening of its showroom in Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital, and said on its Chinese social media account: “Let’s start Xinjiang’s all-electric journey!”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has called on Tesla and its chairman, Elon Musk, to close the showroom and “cease what amounts to economic support for genocide”.
The group’s communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, said: “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.”
The Communist Party has pressured foreign hotels, airlines and other companies to adopt its positions on the status of Taiwan, the island democracy claimed by Beijing as part of its territory, and other issues in advertising and on their websites.
Activists and foreign governments say some one million Uighurs and members of other mostly Muslim minorities have been confined in detention camps in Xinjiang.
Chinese officials reject accusations of abuse and say the camps are for job training and to combat extremism.
In December, Intel, the world’s biggest maker of computer chips, apologised for asking suppliers to avoid sourcing goods from Xinjiang after the state press attacked the company and comments online called for a boycott of its goods.
The United States has barred imports of goods from Xinjiang unless they can be shown not to be made by forced labour.
China is one of Tesla’s biggest markets. The company’s first factory outside the United States opened in Shanghai in 2019.
Other foreign car brands including Volkswagen, General Motors and Nissan have showrooms in Xinjiang operated by the car makers’ Chinese joint-venture partners. VW also operates a factory in Urumqi.