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Even Congress can agree that we need to stop Uyghur genocide. Why can’t Elon Musk?

Planning a Tesla factory for Xinjiang is a new low, even for Tesla's CEO.

Tribunal chair Geoffrey Nice, center, delivers the verdict of the independent tribunal assessing evidence on China’s alleged rights abuses against the Uyghur people, in London, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. The independent and unofficial body set up by a prominent British barrister has concluded that the Chinese government committed genocide and crimes against humanity. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

(RNS) — In mid-December, overcoming the United States’ fierce partisan divide, both the House and Senate passed, and President Biden signed, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, with support from both parties. The legislation allows the U.S. to block imports of goods from China made by Uyghurs and others imprisoned in camps in the country’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Not two weeks later, Tesla announced that it will be opening its newest showroom in Urumqi, the capital of the Uyghur Autonomous Region. 

This is a new low, even for Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

What allowed the forced labor legislation to pass a divided Congress is simple: Sometimes an issue of human rights is so obviously egregious that even those who are remarkably inconsistent on other issues get it right. The genocide of China’s Muslim Uyghur population is one of those issues.


RELATED: Biden administration slaps sanctions on China over Uyghur Muslim persecution


With overwhelming evidence of the disappearance of over a million people into concentration camps — dubbed “re-education camps” by the Chinese Communist Party — Uyghurs are subjected not only to forced labor but cruel practices meant to break people from their Muslim identity and cultural backgrounds. China has economically muzzled Muslim governments, silenced opposition from sports leagues and athletes around the world and powered forward with arrogance and defiance to erase the Uyghur people and their history.

In the face of this behavior, the global community needs to act boldly, lest China and powers like it come to believe that genocide will be tolerated. Only if the world unites against China’s treatment of the Uyghurs can we make it clear that nations and corporations alike are willing to bear the financial and political costs of opposing it.


RELATED: US Holocaust Museum says China boosting Uyghur repression


Against this background, Musk’s announcement shows blatant disregard for human rights, preferring to allow a cruel mix of capitalism, communism and concentration camps to strip a people of its dignity for the sake of profit. 

Elon Musk isn’t the only corporate chief to make profitability the only driver of decision-making. He may be the most unashamed. Back in June, when the Chinese Communist Party was commemorating its 100th anniversary, Musk tweeted, no doubt to the delight of the CCP, “The economic prosperity that China has achieved is truly amazing, especially in infrastructure! I encourage people to visit and see for themselves.”

The average consumer has benefited for years from the products made in these concentration camps, not realizing that shipments, such as 13-tons of hair, come at the expense of Uyghurs or that Hilton Worldwide is helping to develop a hotel in Xinjiang.

Will these consumers continue to buy Teslas, thinking that they are doing the right thing by using environmentally friendly transportation, while in fact supporting the world’s largest mass atrocity?