China has been criticized for its human rights situation, and thus also for the German companies that have invested there. The main shareholder of VW Lower Saxony is now answering the questions – information is not enough for the opposition.
The federal state of Lower Saxony, as Volkswagen’s second-largest owner, has so far failed to conduct any separate investigations into the human rights situation around the controversial car factory in the Chinese region of Xinjiang. However, the abuses are generally condemned “strongly”. This is due to the answer to a parliamentary question from the Greens in the national parliament in Hanover.
The Ministry of Economy, along with the head of department Bernd Althusmann (CDU) – together with Prime Minister Stephan Weil (SPD) on the group’s supervisory board – explained that with VW in mind, “appropriate action and research had not been undertaken”. Before going to China, however, the human rights situation is “usually part of the preparation of the content.” The “Spiegel” and the “Braunschweiger Zeitung” also reported on Friday.
The Greens have criticized the state authorities’ stance on portraying the oppression of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang. It withdraws “on almost everything from ignorance, not being responsible, not interfering with VW’s overall business policy or investment strategy in China, even as an owner.”
Volkswagen operates a factory in Urumqi, northwest China, with state-controlled partner SAIC. According to human rights organizations, Uighurs in the area are systematically persecuted, for example through targeted discrimination and internment in re-education camps.
There was a lot of criticism against VW wanting to maintain its presence. IG Metall, which is also represented on the supervisory board, called for a decision to abandon the site. Meanwhile, the federal government has put a series of guarantees for German companies in China to the test.
China remains an “important trading partner”
The Hannover Ministry referred to the confidentiality of the meetings of the audit committee and VW’s “corporate responsibility”. “The influence of state government members on the board of directors of Volkswagen AG is limited to monitoring the group board of directors.” The revelations about the situation of the Uighurs in the region were deeply shocking, media reports are known. However, the following applies to Volkswagen: “They (the state government) have had no concrete or even personal insight into the human rights abuses and re-education camps in Xinjiang since production began.”
Based on what is known and heard, the car manufacturer is doing its duty to protect human rights “in accordance with its own declarations”. The CEO of Herbert Diess recently announced that he wants to visit the factory in Urumqi to see for himself. He had wanted to go there for a long time, according to his information, there was no forced labor in the factory itself. Diess rejected a withdrawal from Urumqi – that would not improve people’s situation, rather, more communication about values and value models is needed. He warned against excluding China.
In response to the request, the national government wrote: “China continues to be an important trading partner for Lower Saxony companies.” However, “unfortunately, it is not always necessary to assume that economic deals and investments will improve the human rights situation in the world.” (dpa)