(MENAFN) In response to accusations of human rights violations against the Uyghur ethnic minority in Xinjiang, an audit commissioned by Volkswagen has found no evidence of forced labor at its plant in the region. The German automaker has faced scrutiny for its operations in Xinjiang, with Western governments imposing restrictions on imports from the area unless it can be verified that products are not made with forced labor.
Loening — Human Rights and Responsible Business, the auditing firm hired by Volkswagen, conducted 40 interviews and had unrestricted access to inspect the factory in Xinjiang. Markus Loening, the founder of the consultancy and a former German human rights commissioner, stated that there were no indications or evidence of forced labor among the employees.
Xinjiang has been under international scrutiny since China launched a crackdown in 2017, responding to acts of violence and unrest by Uyghurs dissatisfied with government policies. China insists that the measures, including the establishment of vocational training and education centers, were necessary to eliminate a terrorist threat. Despite the controversy surrounding Xinjiang, Volkswagen's Urumqi plant, which now functions solely as a distribution hub, was found to be free of forced labor during the audit.
The U.S. government's restrictions on Xinjiang imports underscore the global concern about human rights abuses in the region. The Volkswagen plant in Urumqi, where about 10,000 vehicles undergo quality checks annually, has seen a significant reduction in its workforce from 650 to 197 between 2015 and 2019. Among the employees, 47 are Uyghurs, while 150 belong to China's Han majority. The audit's findings provide a degree of reassurance to Volkswagen amid ongoing controversies surrounding foreign companies operating in Xinjiang.
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