The White House on Tuesday called on companies to join the U.S. government in countering Beijing's alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, after electric car maker Tesla Inc. was found to have opened a showroom in the region in China.
"I can't speak to the specific situation of one company, but as a general matter, we believe the private sector should oppose the PRC's human rights abuses and genocide in Xinjiang," Press Secretary Jen Psaki told a press conference, referring to the acronym for China's official name, the People's Republic of China.
Her remarks came as the administration of President Joe Biden seeks to hold China accountable for what is perceived as the repression of the Muslim Uyghur minority in the far-western Xinjiang region, including unjust detention and forced labor.
The Biden administration has decided on a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics next month in a show of protest over China's human rights abuses. The president also signed into law in December a bill effectively banning all imports from Xinjiang due to concerns over the use of forced labor there.
"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 said, while warning that companies failing to address forced labor in supply chains face serious legal, reputational and customer risk around the world.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Tesla said it started operations at the new showroom in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, in a Friday post on its official account on China's Twitter-like social media platform Weibo.
The move triggered criticism from human rights advocates, with a major Muslim civil liberties organization in the United States demanding that Tesla CEO Elon Musk close the showroom and "cease what amounts to economic support for genocide."
"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," Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a press release.