Volkswagen’s Complicity in Uyghur Forced Labor: A Red Flag That Mustn’t Be Ignored

June 5, 2024, 11:00 AM
+1 650-703-4523

WASHINGTON D.C. – Campaign for Uyghurs (CFU) applauds U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Coons (D-DE) and House Select Committee on Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Chairman John Moolenaar (R-MI) and Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi’s (D-IL) letter to MSCI’s President outlining concerns about the company’s decision to remove the forced labor “red flag” on Volkswagen.

MSCI, an American company based in New York City, had issued a “red flag” for Volkswagen in 2022, indicating the company’s involvement in one or more very severe Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) controversies due to its joint venture plant in East Turkistan, where the CCP is perpetrating an ongoing genocide against Uyghurs and operating the largest system of state-imposed forced labor. However, following the German carmaker’s sham audit in December 2023, MCSI lifted this “red flag.”

In the aftermath of Volkswagen’s “audit washing” of its plant in Urumchi with the help of the ostentatiously named Löning – Human Rights & Responsible Business, CFU collaborated with partners and allies to expose the methodological and ethical flaws in the Löning audit. CFU privately and publicly expressed its profound disappointment to Markus Löning. Executive Director Rushan Abbas personally appealed to him, highlighting the ineffectiveness of audits in identifying state-imposed forced labor, particularly the egregious forms imposed by the CCP in East Turkistan. The staff of the Löning group publicly announced that no other team member besides Markus Löning and Christian Ewert “participated in, supported or backed this project.” Ensuing journalistic work, including an article in the Financial Times and a joint opinion piece on China.Table by Abbas and Dr. Adrian Zenz, Senior Fellow and Director of China Studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, further exposed the fraudulent nature of the Volkswagen audit by the Löning firm. 

Markus Löning admitted to the Financial Times that conducting audits at the Volkswagen plant in the Uyghur region could be “dangerous” for workers. He said: “Even if they would be aware of something, they cannot say that in an interview.” A May 2024 report by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee further exposed Volkswagen’s link to Uyghur forced labor by revealing the carmaker’s connection to a Chinese company sanctioned under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. 

Raja Krishnamoorthi, Ranking Member of the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party, commented, “MSCI’s decision to lift its ‘red flag’ rating for Volkswagen was wrong and warrants scrutiny. There are real concerns involving forced labor with respect to Volkswagen’s jointly-owned facility with Beijing’s state-owned SAIC Motor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), where the CCP is conducting an ongoing genocide. Neither MSCI nor Volkswagen should minimize these concerns. We can never turn a blind eye to human rights, and companies that do risk severe reputational damage.”

CFU Founder and Executive Director Rushan Abbas commended the letter by the Congressmen and Senators as a meaningful action to address corporate complicity in the Uyghur genocide. “We thank the signatories, Senators Rubio and Coons, and Representatives Moolenar and Krishnamoorthi, for their decisive action in addressing MSCI’s decision to remove the forced labor red flag on Volkswagen. MSCI’s action, based on a flawed and unethical audit, undermines the gravity of the Uyghur genocide and the state-imposed forced labor in East Turkistan. We urge MSCI to stand firm against the use of forced labor, revert its decision, and avoid sharing complicity in the ongoing crimes against humanity.”

We continue to urge Volkswagen to stop misleading its investors and cease operations in East Turkistan because, given the genocidal policies of the CCP, it is impossible to operate ethically and responsibly there. CFU also reiterates its call upon all businesses to divest from East Turkistan, where the Communist regime is committing genocide and crimes against humanity, and to not rely on fraudulent audits to aid and abet crimes against humanity and profit from forced labor. Furthermore, CFU calls for governments to impose stringent penalties upon businesses that continue to operate in East Turkistan despite the overwhelming evidence of the CCP’s oppression against the Uyghurs.



Campaign for Uyhgurs

We defend the human rights of uyghur people and the free world by exposing and confronting the chinese government's genocide, and empowering uyghur women and youth in the diaspora.

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