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Saic Volkswagen plant in Xinjiang: "Car companies simply do not know the extent of their connections to forced labor in Xinjiang in their aluminum supply chains"

Photo: Mark Schiefelbein / AP

According to the human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW), international car manufacturers are not doing enough to combat forced labor in the Chinese region of Xinjiang. "Car companies simply don't know the extent of their links to forced labor in Xinjiang in their aluminum supply chains," said HRW employee Jim Wormington in a report published by the organization on Thursday, which specifically focuses on forced labor in the Chinese aluminum industry.

According to Human Rights Watch, there is credible evidence that aluminum producers in Xinjiang are involved in Chinese government programs that force Uyghurs and members of other Muslim communities to accept work in Xinjiang and other regions. The research evaluated, among other things, state media in China as well as government and company reports.

Accusation of double standards

"Some automakers in China have bowed to government pressure and are applying less stringent human rights and responsible sourcing standards in their Chinese joint ventures than in their global operations," the report says. Manufacturers such as General Motors, Tesla, BYD, Toyota and Volkswagen have failed to minimize the risk of Uighur forced labor in their aluminum supply chains. More than 15 percent of the aluminum produced in China or 9 percent of the global supply comes from Xinjiang.

Volkswagen announced that it takes its responsibility as a company in the area of ​​human rights very seriously worldwide - including in China. The UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights are adhered to closely. These are part of the company’s Code of Conduct. "We not only set high standards in the Volkswagen Group, but also work along the supply chains to adhere to these values," said a spokesman.

VW operates a plant in Xinjiang in a joint venture with the Chinese manufacturer Saic. Uighurs, members of other minorities and human rights organizations have been reporting for years that hundreds of thousands of people in Xinjiang have been put into re-education camps against their will, in some cases tortured and forced into forced labor. The Chinese government denies these allegations.

mik/dpa AFX