Daily US Times: German automaker Volkswagen has defended its decision to continue operating a car plant in China’s Xinjiang region. The area is mired in allegations of large-scale human rights abuses by the state.
Evidence shows that hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims and other minorities are being used as forced labour in factories or detained in camps. This accusation has led some multinational companies to cut ties with the region, despite Beijing’s insistence that the claims are untrue.
Critics of Volkswagen argue that it has a particular moral obligation not to be involved in such practices because of its history.
In 1937, the company was founded by the ruling German Nazi Party and used forced labour – including concentration camp prisoners – in its factories during World War Two.
The company’s CEO in China, Stephan Wollenstein, defended Volkswagen’s presence in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, in an interview with the BBC in Beijing.
The company runs a factory with 600 workers in Urumqi, producing up to 20,000 vehicles a year.
He said: c”What happened in the Nazi times was something that happened in our factories where we had forced labour, people producing Volkswagen cars.”
He said that they are making sure that none of our production sites have forced labour, and the company specifically checked in Urumqi and assuring they do not have forced labour.
But when he was asked whether he could be absolutely certain of that claim and give an assurance that none of the Urumqi workforce – of which around 25% is made up of Uighur Muslims and other minorities – had been in a camp, Dr Wollenstein said he couldn’t.
He said the company tries to control company-related processes, including the HR process, which means the hiring of people in the best possible manner.
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