Elon Musk walks with former Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong in 2019
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  • Chinese bloggers reportedly said Tesla threatened a defamation lawsuit over negative social media posts.
  • The electric carmaker has faced criticism in China over safety concerns related to its brakes.
  • Several users have retracted negative statements about Tesla on Chinese social media.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Chinese bloggers said Tesla threatened to hit them with a defamation lawsuit after they posted negative comments online about the electric carmaker, Financial Times reported.

Tesla has faced an onslaught of criticism in the world's largest electric car market the last few months, after a series of Tesla crashes in China led to safety concerns surrounding the viability of the company's brake system. Hundreds of users on popular Chinese blog sites like Weibo have expressed concern over the safety of Tesla vehicles.

Earlier this month, Tesla's legal department created its own account on Weibo, according to Financial Times. Some users of the site told the news outlet that the carmaker set up its account to identify user complaints and send direct messages to the users threatening to sue. Tesla did not respond to Insider's request for comment.

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Since, several accounts have published public apologies. At least two, issued apologies on Douyin, China's version of TikTok, saying their previous posts fabricated issues with Tesla's cars, the Financial Times found.

Earlier this week, a blogger posted photos of Tesla allegedly threatening to sue after he had called the company a "hooligan" and "rubbish" on the Chinese news and content platform Jinri Toutiao, Financial Times reported.

A lawyer at Shanghai Shenlun, Xia Hailong, told Financial Times Tesla would likely win a defamation lawsuit, following in the footsteps of other companies like Tencent.

In April, a woman went viral on social media when she climbed on top a Tesla car at the Shanghai Auto Show, protesting an alleged brake malfunction in her electric car. On Wednesday, the same woman said on Jinri Toutiao that she had been "extreme" in her efforts, according to the Financial Times.

At the time, the incident lead to Chinese state media criticising Tesla's response to the safety concerns and China's Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission telling Tesla it needs to "face up to the torment of its Chinese customers." The car company issued a public apology, but the negative press caused the company to lose ground in China, as car orders fell back in April. Though, the company's car orders appeared to bounce back in May, following the slump.

China represents a critical space for Tesla. It is a top market for electric cars and accounted for 41% of the world's EV sales in 2020, according to research firm Canalys. The country also claimed 29% of Tesla's global sales in the first quarter.

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