The withdrawal of a chemical company from the Chinese region of Xinjiang has sparked calls on German politicians to push for similar action by other companies, including Volkswagen. Renata Alt, chairwoman of the Bundestag’s Human Rights Committee, emphasized the importance of not making lazy compromises when it comes to human rights and called for Xinjiang to be off-limits for economic activities by Western companies, including VW.
BASF’s decision to divest from joint ventures in Xinjiang has been welcomed by German politicians as a step towards holding Western companies accountable for their actions in the region. Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer stated that pressure on VW will continue to increase, emphasizing that there is an ethical red line for the business ability of companies that involves complicity with forced labor regimes.
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 the region is catastrophic and confusing and that German companies should not operate there.
Volkswagen operates a plant in Xinjiang through a joint venture with the Chinese manufacturer Saic and has faced criticism for its decision to continue operating in the region despite reports of possible human rights violations. The company insists that it takes its responsibility as a company in the area of human rights very seriously worldwide and adheres closely to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. However, reports from Uighurs, members of other minorities, and human rights organizations have revealed that hundreds of thousands of people have been forced into re-education camps, tortured, and subjected to forced labor in Xinjiang. Meanwhile, the Chinese government denies these allegations.