According to the supply chain law: Companies have to move out of the Uyghur region

According to the supply chain law
Companies have to move out of the Uyghur region

In the Chinese province of Xingjiang, the Uighur minority is systematically suppressed. German companies like Volkswagen that are active there could now face far-reaching consequences. Because as an expert opinion shows, the supply chain law creates a new legal situation.

German companies could soon be forced to restrict or even stop their activities in the Chinese region of Xingjiang. The reason is serious human rights violations against the Uyghurs living there. This is reported by the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” with reference to an opinion by the Scientific Service of the Bundestag.

With the Supply Chain Act coming into force, “an obligation of German companies to break off business relationships with their Chinese suppliers appears almost inevitable” when they use forced labor, the paper quotes from the draft that the Greens had commissioned. Otherwise, the German companies threatened with fines. In individual cases there could also be “individual criminal liability of company employees”.

As the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reports on, the Greens called on German companies to draw conclusions. The responsibility of the companies operating in Xinjiang will be “clearer than ever” with this report, said the human rights policy spokeswoman for the Greens in the Bundestag, Margarete Bause. “Every German company now has to seriously ask itself whether it wants to maintain business relations with Xinjiang under these conditions,” she said. The document sends a clear message: “Looking away is not an option.”

The report points out that the supply chain law introduced by the cabinet in March creates a new legal situation. It is true that the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights oblige companies to respect human rights wherever they do business. However, the implementation is not legally enforceable. That will change in Germany as soon as the supply chain law comes into force. The bill provides for fines of up to two percent of annual sales for large companies if they do not take action against human rights and environmental violations at their global suppliers.

Hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs in re-education camps

The Volkswagen Group is repeatedly criticized for its plant in the provincial capital, Urumqi. However, the automaker rejects any allegations. China boss Stephan Wöllenstein told journalists in Shanghai in mid-April that a corporate code of conduct applies to the Volkswagen plant, as it does to all other locations and its suppliers in China. “We cannot have a topic like forced labor, which is critically discussed, because we employ employees directly.” Furthermore, “diversity” is implemented, which also concerns the employment of ethnic minorities “without any form of discrimination,” said Wöllenstein.

Human rights groups estimate that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs have been sent to re-education camps in Xinjiang. China rejects the allegations and instead speaks of training centers. There are also increasing allegations of possible forced labor. Uyghurs are ethnically related to the Turks and feel oppressed by the ruling Han Chinese in Xinjiang. After they came to power in Beijing in 1949, the communists incorporated the former East Turkestan into the People’s Republic. Beijing accuses Uighur groups of terrorism and separatism.