Weekly Brief, 03 March 2023
WUC and GfbV strongly criticise VW Board Member’s visit to East Turkistan
On February 28th, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) together with the Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV) strongly criticised the circumstances of VW board member Ralf Brandstätter’s visit and the group’s attitude towards the VW plant in East Turkistan/Xinjiang and Uyghur forced labour in its supply chains.
The VW board member visited the VW plant in Ürümchi, East Turkistan from February 16 to 17. The Volkswagen Group only announced Brandstätter’s visit after it had taken place. According to his own statement, Brandstätter had been able to talk to workers on site, including Uyghurs and Kazakhs and praised working conditions at the plant. On the allegations of Uyghur forced labour in VW supply chains, Brandstätter did not comment.
“There are serious doubts about the extent to which Mr. Brandstätter was able to get an objective picture of the situation on the ground, especially since the visit was most likely planned and coordinated jointly with the Chinese authorities. Volkswagen must not become a cover for the Chinese government’s genocide against the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples,” says Haiyuer Kuerban, head of the WUC office in Berlin.
“The secrecy around the visit and the continuous downplaying of the genocide and Uyghur forced labour in the supply chains show Volkswagen’s strategy of ‘business as usual’. German policymakers must increase pressure on Volkswagen to ensure that the group complies with the standards of the German Supply Chain Act and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,” Kuerban demanded.
WUC joins the Coalition to End Uyghur Forced Labour’s Action Week
On March 1st, the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), joined the ‘VW Week of Action’ campaign organised by the Coalition to End Uyghur Forced Labour. The Action Week is targeting Volkswagen through social media to increase pressure on the company to leave East Turkistan and close the VW-SAIC Urumchi plant. During the week, various petitions, social media posts and articles are being shared online to make the public aware of Volkswagen’s link to Uyghur forced labour. The Sheffield Hallam University report on forced labour in the automobile industry hereby serves as a main point of reference for detailing the company’s supply chain links exposures to Uyghur forced labour.
SAIC-Volkswagen was the first car manufacturing project introduced in East Turkistan and in 2015, SAIC-Volkswagen accounted for 98% of total car production in the region. Despite clear evidence of forced labour and although production in the plant has dropped in the last two years and has never reached even half of its expected capacity at the peak of its annual production, former VW CEO Herbert Deiss and current VW CEO Oliver Blume have refused to shut down the Urumchi plant, which is in close proximity to the Chinese internment camps.
52nd Session of the UN HRC starts
On February 27th, the 52nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council started. The inter-governmental body, which is set out ‘for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights’ and for addressing human rights violations is meeting this year again in Geneva.
Although it is possible for NGOs to obtain accreditation to the Council’s session as observers and to deliver oral statements, as the WUC has done in the past, it is proven to be extremely difficult for organisations like the WUC to gain ECOSOC accreditation. UN member states continue to block civil society groups. Particularly, China’s influence at the UN has blocked the WUC from receiving ECOSOC status, as Beijing claims the WUC to be a “terrorist” and “separatist” group. A possible way into the UN HRC is through another organisation that is willing to share speaking slots, however as WUC President Dolkun Isa explained in an interview with Swiss Info “The problem is that sometimes the NGOs that provide us with an accreditation are threatened to have theirs removed,”.
Particularly, after last year’s release of the OHCHR assessment on East Turkistan, China’s human rights violations may take a central stage. During two of the High-Level segments, the Uyghur genocide and the OHCHR report were raised. The High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell Fontelles, welcomed the OHCHR report on East Turkistan and urged China to respond to these abuses. Borell also reminds UN HRC and Security Council members to uphold their obligations under the UN charter. Whereas, the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised the USA’s renewed concern about the ongoing crimes against humanity and genocide perpetrated against the #Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims by China. The Australian Assistant Foreign Minister Watts also raised the country’s concern on the issue.
Uyghur supporter and Belgian MP becomes latest victim of cyber security attack
On March 1st, news reports broke that Belgian MP Samuel Cogolati has become the latest victim of a cyber security attack linked to China. The MP who drafted a resolution warning of ”crimes against humanity” against Uyghurs was named by the Belgium cyber security agency as a subject of a spear phishing attack in January 2021, it is believed that the Chinese state actor ‘APT31’ is behind the attack.
The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) called upon governments ‘to take a firm stand against these attacks and take concrete action to protect both diaspora communities living in our country and own citizens’ by proposing several recommendations.
Donate to the World Uyghur Congress and support our efforts to end the Uyghur Genocide
With your donation, we can continue our national, EU and UN advocacy campaigns, provide capacity building for Uyghurs in the diaspora and continue our promotion of human rights, democracy, and religious freedom. Please donate here.
Support Uyghurs’ Genocide & Crimes Against Humanity Case in Argentina
The World Uyghur Congress and the Uyghur Human Rights Project have launched a criminal case in the courts of Argentina in relation to the international crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity being committed against the Uyghur people. Please donate and be a part of this historical case.
Ask Volkswagen to Close its Plant in East Turkistan
Despite growing evidence of the ongoing genocide against the Uyghurs, Volkswagen continues to operate in East Turkistan. The World Uyghur Congress is collecting signatures to demand Volkswagen to close down its plant in Urumqi. Please sign here.