After its China head visited the plant for the first time with senior management in the middle of February and claimed he saw no evidence of forced labor, Volkswagen announced on Tuesday that it is legally committed to keeping its plant in Xinjiang open until 2030.
On February 16–17, Ralf Brandstaetter and the director of compliance and external relations for Volkswagen in China spent one and a half days visiting the facility. Ralf Brandstaetter has been in charge of the automaker’s operations in China since the middle of last year.
In addition to having lengthy conversations with seven workers—including Han Chinese, Uyghurs, and Kazakhs—one-on-one, he also conducted briefer conversations with other employees during his tour, which he claimed took place outside the purview of the government.
“I can talk to people and draw my conclusions. I can try and verify the facts [from joint venture partner SAIC], and that’s what I did. I didn’t find any contradictions,” Brandstaetter said, adding it was his first visit but not his last.
For co-owning a plant in the area, where rights groups have documented human rights abuses such as mass forced labor in detention camps that the UN said could constitute crimes against humanity, Volkswagen has come under fire from politicians, human rights organizations, and the German union IG Metall, among others. There have been no violations in Xinjiang, according to China.