BASF to divest from China joint ventures over Xinjiang abuse claims

Nonetheless, it has taken the decision under intense political scrutiny of its activities in the far-western Chinese region.

The divestment is “subject to negotiations and required approvals of the relevant authorities”, the company said, adding that its China business “remains otherwise unchanged, and the company is fully committed to its business activities and planned investments in the country”.

BASF had been subjected to a pressure campaign urging it to exit Xinjiang, following a joint investigation published last week in the German media outlets ZDF and Der Spiegel finding that its joint venture partner, Xinjiang Markor Chemical Industry, had accompanied Chinese government officials on visits to the homes of Uygur employees.

The visits were part of a state campaign that rights groups have criticised as ways of spying on ethnic Uygurs, who comprised 45 per cent of Xinjiang’s total population in 2021, according to local government statistics.

The Chinese government has been accused of committing “crimes against humanity” in Xinjiang by the United Nations, charges it has repeatedly denied.

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After last week’s reports published, a group of 30 lawmakers sent a letter to the company asking it to leave the region immediately.

“The reports indicate the shocking degree to which your company appears to be implicated in gross abuses of the Uygur and other predominantly Turkic minorities in the region,” read the letter, which was subsequently signed by additional members of the European Parliament.

“As advocates for corporate responsibility, human rights, due diligence and respect for basic rights, we urge BASF to withdraw from Xinjiang.

“The credibility and integrity of your company are at stake, and we believe it is crucial for you to take swift and decisive action in addressing this matter,” it added.

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“It is our hope that BASF will take this matter seriously and prioritise the well-being of those in Xinjiang who are suffering grievously under oppressive and discriminatory policies.”

The German company has been a prominent investor in China and Xinjiang in particular, where its presence has come in for close media and political scrutiny in recent years.

The recent reports were based on research by Adrian Zenz, a German anthropologist whose work has been widely cited by Western governments and media. Allegations of systemic detentions, incarcerations and forced labour among the minority Uygur and other ethnic Muslims in Xinjiang have mounted in recent years.

The European Union is now processing a forced-labour ban that would be geographically agnostic in its application, but which was written with Xinjiang in mind.

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