Teslas barred from China’s World University Games in Chengdu ahead of a Xi visit

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Visitors visit the Tesla booth at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai, July 6, 2023.

Costfoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Tesla Inc. vehicles are barred from parts of a major Chinese city as it prepares for a visit by President Xi Jinping for the start of the World University Games on Friday, according to people familiar with the matter. 

Authorities in Chengdu, a city of 21 million people in southwest China’s Sichuan province, have told officials to block Teslas from some areas related to the event and Xi’s visit, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

Teslas have been prevented from entering Chinese military complexes and housing compounds in recent years, as well as facing bans from a district that hosts Communist Party summer retreats. The curbs stem from concerns about sensitive data being collected by cameras built into the vehicles, though Tesla and Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk have vowed to follow local data rules. 

China is a key market for Tesla, which has a factory in Shanghai that accounts for more than half of its global output. A representative for the Austin, Texas-based automaker didn’t respond to a request for comment. 

A video circulating on Chinese social network Douyin showed a Tesla driver being denied entry to a venue in Chengdu. In the clip, which is no longer available, a traffic officer explained that he was following an official order for the games. Bloomberg News wasn’t able to independently verify the video. 

Chengdu is imposing wider traffic restrictions during the sports event, which runs until Aug. 8, including closing off some streets to civilian drivers.  

Xi will attend the opening ceremony and host leaders including Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo. The summer version of the games last took place in the Italian city of Naples in 2019. They were then postponed due to the pandemic.  

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