Volkswagen plant in Urumqi

Volkswagen will continue operations at its plant in the Xinjiang region of China despite reported human rights violations, the German car manufacturer has confirmed.

Chief executive Herbert Diess confirmed the decision in comments published by the Handelsblatt newspaper, with the outlet quoting Diess as saying that “the presence of SAIC Volkswagen leads to the situation improving for people”. The lack of response from the company to issues being reported from the region has been criticized by various human rights organizations.

Volkswagen have run the plant in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region, since 2013 in conjunction with SAIC Motor Corporation, China’s largest automaker. A number of groups claim that ethnic Uyghurs in the region are subject to frequent human rights abuses including detention and torture.

In his comments Diess said that any proof of wrongdoing at the plant would be met by a “massive” response from the firm, although he failed to clarify how the company would react to evidence of rights violations in the wider region. The executive also seemed to suggest that such evidence had not been clearly presented to date.

“We travel there, and like everywhere in the world we ensure our labour standards are implemented, and that cultural and religious differences are respected,” Diess told Handelsblatt.

On Friday Der Spiegel reported that Germany’s Economy Ministry has refused to provide Volkswagen with guarantees to cover new investments in China due to the allegations. China denies all accusations of rights violations, describing alleged detention camps as voluntary “vocational training facilities”.

Volkswagen is also under pressure over human rights concerns in Brazil, where prosecutors are investigating alleged human rights violations linked to a cattle farm in the country between 1974 and 1986.

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