German companies will probably have to exit Xinjiang

German companies will soon be forced to terminate their operations in the Xinjiang region under Germany’s new Supply Chain Act in light of China’s serious human rights abuses against the Uyghurs, according to a report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

German companies may soon be forced to limit their activities in the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang or withdraw altogether due to serious human rights violations against the Uyghurs. This is the conclusion drawn from an assessment report by the German Bundestag’s Scientific Service. The assessment report has been obtained by the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

According to the draft commissioned by the Greens, once the Supply Chain Act comes into force, German companies will be obliged to interrupt their business relations with Chinese suppliers in the event of forced labor. This is almost inevitable. Otherwise, German companies will face fines. In individual cases, company employees may have to bear individual criminal liability.

The Greens call on German companies to choose sides. Margaret Bowser, spokeswoman for human rights policy in the Greens’ federal parliament, said that with this assessment report, the responsibilities of German companies active in Xinjiang will become “clearer than ever. In this context, she said, “every German company must now seriously ask itself whether it wants to maintain a business relationship with Xinjiang.” The assessment sends a clear message: “Turning a blind eye is not an option.”

The assessment report notes that the Supply Chain Act enacted by the German government’s cabinet in March has created a new legal landscape. While the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights require companies to respect human rights wherever they do business. However, the implementation of the law is not mandatory. But the situation in Germany will change when the Supply Chain Act comes into force. The Act imposes fines of up to 2 percent of annual sales on large companies that do not take measures against their global suppliers that undermine human rights and the environment.

According to Bundestag assessment experts, it is clear that this will certainly have consequences in the Xinjiang region. Citing media reports, the evaluation experts said that many foreign companies, including German ones, benefit from the exploitation of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Some of their products come from factories or suppliers that use forced labor.

According to media reports, factory buildings of German companies are often located near Chinese internment and re-education camps. Adidas, Puma, BMW, Bosch, Siemens, Volkswagen and BASF were mentioned in the assessment report. The accused companies “made various statements, denials or admissions” regarding such allegations.

According to the assessment experts, the Chinese government is engaged in genocidal activities in Xinjiang.

Unlike the German Federal Parliament, the Canadian, Dutch and British parliaments have qualified China’s actions in Xinjiang as genocide.

On Monday, the German Federal Parliament’s Human Rights Committee will hold a hearing to discuss the situation in Xinjiang.