In response to a chemical company’s decision to withdraw from the Chinese region of Xinjiang, German politicians from various political parties have called on Volkswagen to follow suit. Renata Alt, Chairwoman of the Bundestag’s Human Rights Committee, urged Volkswagen to make Xinjiang a “no-go” for economic activities by Western companies, including VW. She emphasized the importance of not making compromises when it comes to human rights.
The BASF Group has already announced its plans to sell shares in two joint ventures in Korla, China, due to reports of possible human rights violations. Frank Schwabe, the Federal Government Commissioner for Freedom of Religion and Belief, has demanded that all German companies immediately halt any further business operations in Xinjiang. He stated that the human rights situation in Xinjiang is catastrophic and confusing, and German companies should not operate there.
However, Volkswagen operates a plant in Xinjiang in a joint venture with the Chinese manufacturer Saic. Despite issuing a commission to examine the working conditions at the plant in Xinjiang, VW insists that it takes its responsibility as a company in the area of human rights very seriously worldwide, including in China. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are adhered to closely by the company.
Reports from Uighurs, members of other minorities, and human rights organizations have revealed that hundreds of thousands of people in Xinjiang have been forced into re-education camps, tortured, and subjected to forced labor. Meanwhile, the Chinese government denies these allegations. The pressure on Volkswagen will increase as Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer stated that Basf’s decision was welcomed by these politicians and emphasized that there is an ethical red line for the business ability of companies asserting that “complicity with the forced labor regime in Xinjiang” lies behind it.