In the wake of BASF’s decision to divest itself from joint ventures in Xinjiang, German politicians have called on Volkswagen to follow suit. Renata Alt, Chairwoman of the Bundestag’s Human Rights Committee, stated that “Xinjiang must become a ‘no-go’ as a location for economic activities for Western companies, including VW.” She emphasized the importance of not making lazy compromises when it comes to human rights.
The Federal Government Commissioner for Freedom of Religion and Belief, Frank Schwabe, demanded that all German companies immediately halt any further business operations in Xinjiang. He asserted that the human rights situation in Xinjiang is catastrophic and confusing, and German companies should not operate there.
BASF’s decision to divest itself of shares in joint ventures in Xinjiang has been welcomed by these politicians. Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer stated that the pressure on VW will increase. He 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.
Volkswagen operates a plant in Xinjiang in a joint venture with the Chinese manufacturer Saic, and their decision to continue operating in Xinjiang has been met with scrutiny. 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.