On August 31, the United Nations report on the human rights situation in Xinjiang was made public. According to the U.N., the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is responsible for crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and Muslims. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, visited China last May and presented the report minutes before the end of her four-year term.
The U.N. Human Rights Office said in the report that “serious human rights violations have been committed” in Xinjiang due to the policies to counter terrorism and “extremism” implemented by the Chinese communist regime.
“The extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of members of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim groups may amount to international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity,” the office states on its website. “It found credible indications of violations of reproductive rights through the coercive enforcement of family planning policies since 2017.”
It added that the lack of data from the CCP “makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the full extent of the current enforcement of these policies and associated reproductive rights violations.”
During Bachelet’s visit to the Xinjiang region, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation unveiled a detailed report compiling evidence of an extensive police network of secret prisons and forced re-education camps linked to high-level leaders in the CCP.
The leaked documents included more than 2,800 photographs of Uyghur detainees, internal speeches by senior Chinese officials, and other data from re-education camps in Xinjiang.
According to the foundation’s website, the report shows the CCP’s secret campaign to lock up between 1 million and 2 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.
A German journalist from the Handelsblatt media outlet commented via Twitter that despite allegations of human rights violations, the factories of German companies BASF and Volkswagen were still active in the region.
Some international journalists tried to visit the Volkswagen factory in Xinjiang, but failed. In May, in the face of pressure from some international media, the automaker’s then CEO, Herbert Diess, said that VW would not close its factory in the region, as he believes the company’s presence has “a positive impact.”
VW’s factory started production in 2013, in the town of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. In April 2019, the company’s CEO said during the Shanghai International Motor Show that VW will deliver 22 million electric vehicles by 2028, half of which will be produced in China.
At a press conference afterward, when a reporter asked Diess about Volkswagen’s investment in Xinjiang, his ties to the CCP, and his views on the communist regime’s mass detention of Uyghurs, he said he would not comment and was unaware of any concentration camps. His statements provoked deep unease in the international community.
However, in an interview published by Handelsblatt, when asked whether VW would end its operations in protest against the situation in Xinjiang, Diess replied, “We could do that. But we won’t, because we believe that our presence has a positive impact.”
Asked by the German media about new reports revealing human rights abuses in the region and what he thought about them, he said, “Because of our history, we are particularly sensitive to the issues of human rights, civil liberties, and freedom of expression. That’s why we are very active in enforcing our high standards in our locations. And of course we disapprove of what is going on there. If we had evidence of wrongdoing at our local facilities, we would take massive action.”
Volskwagen tried to stay out of the Xinjiang human rights situation. With the appointment of the new CEO, Oliver Blume, in August, the issue came up again in an interview in the German newspaper “BILD.”
During the interview, Blume said that the company wants to keep the VW plant in Xinjiang, “This [having an operational factory in Xinjiang] means bringing our values to the world, to China, to the Uyghur region.”
He also noted that Volkswagen offers “secure and relatively well-paying jobs” to the people of Xinjiang.
Blume added, “We have been very successful in China over the past decades. And we will continue to be strong there in the future. That’s why we invest in innovative technologies.”
On August 31, the World Uyghur Congress, along with 98 other Uyghur organizations, published a letter addressed to Volskwagen’s new CEO, calling for the closure of the Xinjiang plant as the company’s repudiation of the recent report on Uyghur human rights abuses and violations. The organization had also called for a protest in Wolfsburg on September 2.
The letter points to recently revealed reports showing the systematic violation of Uyghurs’ human rights, re-education, and forced labor camps, as well as the CCP’s pressures on companies in the region to “collaborate” with its ethnic cleansing policy by making its facilities and factories available for Uyghurs deprived of their freedom to serve sentences of forced labor.
An excerpt from the letter to Blume, posted on the World Uyghur Congress website, reads “The ongoing genocide of the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples leaves no room for further hesitation. Volkswagen must act now to prevent it from becoming a toy of the Chinese government and thus an accomplice to the genocide.”
“It is now up to Volkswagen to show that it has learned from its difficult history and “Never again!”, do not remain just empty phrases. In view of the genocide of the Uyghur and Turkic population, it cannot go on like this. Volkswagen must therefore act now and close its Urumqi plant immediately and ensure that its supply chains are free of Uyghur forced labor. We would therefore like to ask you for a statement by September 15, 2022,” the letter ends.
The CEO of the German company has so far not provided a public response to the Uyghur letter.