In view of the human rights violations against the Uyghur minority in China, Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) wants human rights to be given more weight in trade policy in the future.

“A company that also operates in the Uyghur province wanted to extend investment guarantees.

We won't accept that," Habeck told the "Welt am Sonntag".

In his words, it is “the first time” that investment guarantees “fail” for human rights reasons.

Of course, requests for guarantees would continue to be decided on a case-by-case basis, Habeck said.

"But the guiding principle is: In view of the forced labor and mistreatment of the Uyghurs, we cannot secure any projects in the Xinjiang region." According to "Spiegel" information, the company concerned is the Volkswagen Group.

A ministry spokeswoman quoted the news magazine as saying that a total of "four applications from a company for the extension of investment guarantees" were not granted.

Volkswagen is waiting for a decision

Volkswagen therefore confirmed corresponding applications for investment guarantees.

However, the group has not yet received a response from the federal government.

"We expect a decision," said a VW spokesman.

"Of course, a rejection is also possible."

Volkswagen is criticized for its China business mainly because of its activities in Xinjiang.

According to "Spiegel" information, VW does not want to invest in the controversial plant there, but in other factories in China.

However, the ministry refuses to vouch for the new project.

The applications are related to a business location in Xinjiang, at least the connection cannot be ruled out, the ministry said, according to “Spiegel”.

sanctions proposed

For VW, the rejection has the consequence that the group has to bear the financial risks for its planned commitments in China alone.

According to information from VW circles, the government's decision will not change anything about Volkswagen's investment plans.

In an interview with Welt am Sonntag, Habeck also warned that Chinese officials should be subject to sanctions like the Russian oligarchs should they have been demonstrably involved in crimes against Uyghurs.

EU sanctions against officials for serious human rights violations in the Xinjiang region have been in place for over a year, he said.

"If it's possible to identify other people responsible and prove their actions, I think that's worth considering."