VW board member in Xinjiang / East Turkestan

Brandstätter serves as a fig leaf

On Tuesday, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) and the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) criticized the circumstances of the visit of VW board member Ralf Brandstätter as well as the company’s approach towards its plant in Xinjiang / East Turkestan and, generally, towards Uyghur forced labor in the company’s supply chains. According to his own statement, Brandstätter hat visited VW’s plant in Urumqi, Xinjiang / East Turkestan from February 16 to 17. Volkswagen had not publicized Brandstätter’s visit until afterwards. It is stated that Brandstätter was able to talk to workers on site – also with Uyghurs and Kazakhs.

“There are great doubts as to the extent to which Brandstätter was able to get an objective picture of the situation on site – especially as his visit was most probably planned and coordinated by the Chinese authorities. Volkswagen must not become a fig leaf for the brutal crimes of the Chinese government against the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples,” stated Haiyuer Kuerban, head of the WUC’s office in Berlin. Brandstätter did not even comment on this issue. Instead, he emphasized that the plant in East Turkestan was by no means in question. 

The last time media representatives and politicians were able to independently visit the plant was ten years ago. Millions of Uyghurs are being brainwashed, raped, and tortured in the immediate vicinity of the Volkswagen plant. According to the Research Services of the German Bundestag, the crimes against the Uyghurs can be seen as acts of genocide. “This really begs the question what other reasons Volkswagen would need to withdraw from the region. Volkswagen’s ignorance towards the suffering of millions of Uyghurs is disgraceful,” Kuerban added.

Extensive research by the Sheffield Hallam University shows that several suppliers to VW’s plant are participating in work-transfer programs that are run by the Chinese government. Volkswagen is denying this, referring to the company’s sustainability guidelines. “Surely, Mr. Brandstätter himself does not believe that the talks in the vicinity of the infamous internment camps were free and independent. As there are no independent audits in the region, Volkswagen must finally take the appropriate steps to withdraw from Xinjiang. Further, the company should be transparent about how it follows up on reports about forced labor in its supply chains and what actions it would be willing to take. Of course, this also concerns Chinese suppliers that are located in or outside of Xinjiang / East Turkestan,” stated Hanno Schedler, STP expert on genocide prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. “Also, politics in the state of Lower Saxony – as Volkswagen’s most important shareholder – will have to give up its restraint and at least comment on the crimes of Chinese politics in the region.”  

“The secretiveness regarding the visit and the ongoing attempts to downplay the genocide crimes and Uyghur forced labor in VW’s supply chains clearly show that the company is following a strategy of ‘business as usual’. German politics must finally put more pressure on Volkswagen to ensure that the company respects the provisions of the German supply chain law and the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” Kuerban demanded.