A data leak occupies huge forced labor camps in the Chinese Uyghur province of Xinjiang. IG Metall is now increasing the pressure on VW to close its plant there. The carmaker argues that it does not employ forced labor itself.
In the debate about a plant operated by Volkswagen in the Chinese Uyghur region, the pressure on the car manufacturer is increasing. IG Metall boss Jörg Hofmann, who sits on the supervisory board of the Wolfsburg group, questioned VW's activities there. "Meanwhile there is hardly any doubt that human rights violations are taking place in Xinjiang," the union boss told the "Wolfsburger Nachrichten". Therefore, the group board must deal with the issue. There is currently no indication that human rights violations have occurred at VW itself. "Nevertheless, the overall question to be asked is what it means for the company's reputation to continue investing there," Hofmann, who is deputy chairman of the VW supervisory board, told the newspaper.
Lower Saxony's Social Democratic Prime Minister Stephan Weil, who sits on the control committee as a representative of the state with 20 percent of the voting rights in VW, said: "The pictures and reports about the serious human rights violations against the Uyghur minority in the Chinese region of Xinjiang are shocking." So far, however, there is no evidence that human rights or labor rights have been violated at the VW plant. "However, that does not relieve the company of its duty to deal intensively with the issue and to examine the allegations about the human rights situation carefully, which will also be done."
Volkswagen said in a statement quoted by the newspaper: "We are not aware of any cases in which employees of the Saic Volkswagen company were or are in detention camps." When asked, the group added: "In talks with the Chinese government, all important issues that are important for our business activities are addressed." Critical issues are not left out either.
The company pointed out that it had previously made it publicly clear that it took a global stand against forced labor in connection with its business activities. "As a global company, the Volkswagen Group stands for individual freedom, fair working conditions, open world trade, economic development and peaceful coexistence." The group expects that the values and standards will also be observed by its local business partners.
Hofmann said in the interview that Volkswagen can not only look at what is going on in its own "front yard", but also have to pay attention to which "street" you live on. "When human rights violations are visibly happening on the right and left, I demand action." The group must position itself visibly and unequivocally against human rights violations.
China is Volkswagen's largest sales market. The group has been operating a factory in the city of Urumqi together with the state-owned company Saic since 2013. The Wolfsburg residents have long been criticized for their presence in the Uyghur province, but have repeatedly denied this with the argument that their presence there helps to improve the situation of the people.
The Uyghur Muslim minority, oppressed by the Chinese state, lives in the Xinjiang region of north-west China. Recently, reports and photos of internment camps made headlines there again. It also spoke of a secret shooting order in the camps. The Federal Ministry of Economics recently refused Volkswagen investment guarantees for China in connection with human rights violations. The presidium of the supervisory board, which insiders say will meet next week, should also deal with the topic. Lower Saxony's Prime Minister Weil also sits on the committee. In October, a new state parliament will be elected in the federal state.