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BASF Withdraws from Xinjiang Joint Ventures After Reports of Human Rights Abuses

German chemical company BASF announced on February 9th that it will withdraw its stake from two joint ventures in Xinjiang, China after human rights groups accused its local partners of participating in the crackdown on ethnic minorities. The two joint ventures are Xinjiang Markor Chemical and Markor Meiou Chemical. BASF says it initiated the sale in late 2023 for other reasons but will now accelerate the process, subject to local approval.

In its statement, BASF said recent allegations indicate the joint ventures were engaged in activities inconsistent with BASF’s values. The two ventures employ about 120 people locally, with BASF holding roughly half the shares. Markor Chemicals produces butanediol, used to make fibers, plastics and rubber.

Last week, reports revealed Markor and its employees were directly involved in surveillance and repression of Uyghurs by the Communist Party, leading to arrests. BASF said it was unaware and does not condone such actions, emphasizing they only involve its partners, not BASF itself.

Human rights groups have long accused China of systematically cracking down on Uyghurs in Xinjiang by sending over a million to detention camps for “re-education.” Beijing denies this, claiming it is combating extremism.

Several Western companies like Volkswagen operate in Xinjiang. VW recently said a third-party investigation found no evidence its factories use forced labor after facing such allegations.

BASF stated that despite withdrawing from Xinjiang, its other China businesses will continue normally. It is spending $10 billion on a new production base in Guangdong province. The company says it remains fully committed to its investments in China.

Source: Deutsche Welle, February 10, 2024