Freedom United and partners hold Volkswagen's feet to the fire

Freedom United and partners hold Volkswagen’s feet to the fire

  • Published on
    May 28, 2024
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  • Category:
    Forced Labor, Supply Chain
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This week, Volkswagen held its annual general meeting and advocates, including the Freedom United community, had one required item for their agenda: providing a clear strategy to eliminate Uyghur forced labor from its operations and supply chains.

“Volkswagen’s ‘In China, for China’ strategy shouldn’t mean complicity in forced labor,” said Jim Wormington, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. He urged shareholders to demand robust measures to tackle this issue in Volkswagen’s supply chains.

Flawed audit and willful ignorance

Key materials used in car manufacturing, including aluminum, are produced in the Uyghur Region by companies linked to government forced labor programs. Nearly 10 percent of the world’s aluminum is produced in the Uyghur Region, with known participation in coercive labor transfers. The world’s biggest car companies are all implicated.

To date, Volkswagen remains among the few corporations that have not made significant efforts to distance themselves from the Uyghur forced labor system. Remarkably, the company continues to maintain an unprofitable physical presence in the Uyghur Region.

Volkswagen manufactures cars in China through joint ventures with Chinese carmakers, but has failed to adequately investigate potential links between its supply chains and forced labor. A 2023 audit of a Uyghur Region plant, operated by a subsidiary of Volkswagen’s joint venture with SAIC, was criticized for its superficiality.

Despite findings that indicated no forced labor, the audit’s credibility was undermined by the pervasive surveillance in the region. Additionally, a February 2024 report by Handelsblatt alleged that a contractor for a SAIC-Volkswagen subsidiary used Uyghur forced labor to construct a test track in the region. Volkswagen itself had to recently admit to US customs that a sub-supplier produced a part using Uyghur forced labor, leading to impounded vehicles while the part was replaced. However, Volkswagen did not confirm if the part was removed from vehicles sold outside the US.

Freedom United will keep pushing Volkswagen

“Volkswagen can’t simply wash its hands of responsibility for its Chinese joint ventures in full knowledge of the risks of forced labor,” said Chloé Bailey, senior legal advisor at European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.

She urged shareholders to demand transparency and adherence to human rights and responsible-sourcing standards in all joint venture operations. Last year’s AGM was interrupted by protests and cake, leading to Volkswagen announcing their audit.

This year’s meeting took place virtually but that didn’t stop us. We showed up in Berlin to let Volkswagen know that tens of thousands of people are calling on them to cut ties with Uyghur forced labor.

Following an emergency signature drive, we also handed in our petition after the meeting failed to establish a clear plan to addressing forced labor in their supply chain.

We won’t stop there. Join the movement today and demand accountability from Volkswagen!

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Buming
Buming
13 days ago

Maybe it could help to put pressure on countries like Germany where the cars are sold. New EU laws forbid forced labor and the EU has to hold Volkswagen accountable in the way the US does!

Nsimire Muderma
14 days ago

As a Victim of human trafficking, I have been facing Bank fraudulent activities in my bank account. The perpetrators are stilling my money from my bank account. They don’t want me to keep my money in the bank account. They don’t want me to work, they don’t want me to pay my rent. They block my transaction activities so that I may not be able to withdraw cash from the ITM Bank machine. They make it hard so that I may not be able to pay my bills, they trigger me to be volnurable street homeless.

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