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17 Jun 2022

Joe Miller, The Financial Times (UK),

Volkswagen faces union and shareholder pressure to address human rights allegations in China supply chain

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"Volkswagen faces union and shareholder calls to examine China human rights allegations" 17 June 2022

Volkswagen’s anchor shareholder, the state of Lower Saxony, has joined Germany’s most powerful union boss in calling on the company to address allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, the Chinese province where the manufacturer has had a car plant since 2013.

The unusual interventions by IG Metall’s Jörg Hofmann and Lower Saxony’s minister president Stephan Weil — both of whom sit on VW’s supervisory board — come as the company faces increased scrutiny from activists, the media and politicians over its activities in China, its largest and most lucrative market. [...]

Hofmann told newspapers in Lower Saxony that VW should ask whether it “was proper to end its activities [in Xinjiang]”, and warned against VW becoming a “fig leaf” for China’s human rights violations. Weil, meanwhile, said in a statement that the group should “closely examine” the accusations. [...]

Weil reiterated VW’s claim that no human rights or labour rights violations had been identified at the carmaker’s Urumqi plant, but added that “this does not relieve the group of its duty to deal intensively with the issue and to closely examine the allegations”. [...]

VW, which runs the Xinjiang plant in conjunction with its joint-venture partner SAIC, said “all important topics relevant to our business are addressed” in its discussions with the Chinese government.

“In our worldwide business activities, we ensure that our values are lived and our standards are upheld,” it added. “We expect the same from our local business partners.” [...]