U.S. lawmakers call Tesla expansion in Xinjiang 'misguided'

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The Tesla logo is seen on a car at Tesla Motors' new showroom in Manhattan's Meatpacking District in New York City, U.S., December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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WASHINGTON, Jan 20 (Reuters) - The chairmen of two congressional panels on oversight and trade on Thursday assailed Tesla's (TSLA.O) expansion in China's far-western Xinjiang region, where detention camps have drawn heavy criticism, and asked the electric car maker about its Chinese product sourcing.

"Your misguided expansion into the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region sets a poor example and further empowers the (Chinese government)," Democrats Bill Pascrell and Earl Blumenauer, who head two House of Representatives Ways and Means subcommittees, wrote in a joint letter to Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk.

Tesla made a New Year's Eve announcement that it opened a showroom in Xinjiang, becoming the latest foreign business caught up in tensions related to the region.

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Xinjiang has become a significant point of conflict between Western governments and China in recent years. U.N. experts and rights groups estimate that more than a million people, mainly Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities, have been detained in camps there.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington and Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Pascrell and Blumenauer in the letter asked Musk whether Tesla sources any goods made or manufactured in Xinjiang and, if so, to identify them. They also asked whether Tesla has any financial relationships with companies connected to Xinjiang and whether Tesla plans to expand into other regions in China.

The company operates a factory in Shanghai and is ramping up production there amid surging sales in China. China has also become an export hub for Teslas bound for Europe and other markets.

President Joe Biden and U.S. lawmakers have stepped up pressure on companies to distance themselves from Xinjiang. Biden signed a law on Dec. 23 barring imports of goods made in the region. The two lawmakers said the questions to Musk were in part to "better understand Tesla's compliance" with the new law and other U.S. trade regulations.

The United States has labeled China's treatment of ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang as genocide. China has rejected accusations of forced labor or any other abuses there.

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Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Will Dunham and Franklin Paul

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