BASF, a German company that produces chemicals, has announced its decision to pull out of two joint ventures in Xinjiang. This comes after reports of human rights violations associated with its partner company, which the CEO of BASF stated as unacceptable.
On Friday, BASF released a statement acknowledging that despite conducting thorough internal and external audits, no evidence of human rights violations were found in the two joint ventures. However, BASF expressed concern over recent reports that suggest actions that go against their values.
A group of international politicians called on BASF to pull out of Xinjiang, a north-western region in China known for numerous reports of government-sanctioned violations of human rights, on Monday.
Politicians sent a letter after German media reported that BASF’s partner company in China, Xinjiang Markor Chemical Industry (also known as Markor Chemical), joined Chinese officials on home visits to Uyghur households. This was part of a government program that has been criticized by human rights organizations for its use of surveillance and indoctrination tactics.
According to reports, the purported visits occurred during the years 2018 and 2019, when the Chinese government was actively carrying out a campaign to oppress Uyghurs and other minority groups in Xinjiang. The government claims that its actions in the region are aimed at combating terrorism and reducing poverty, while also promoting ethnic unity.
On Friday, BASF announced that it will sell off its stakes in two joint ventures by the end of 2023 due to concerns about the market conditions and environmental impact of the chemicals produced in Xinjiang. This decision was prompted by recent reports about Markor Chemical and BASF plans to expedite the divestment process. These two joint ventures are the only operations BASF has in Xinjiang, but the company does have other facilities in different regions of China.
On Friday, BASF’s Chief Executive Officer, Martin Brudermüller, held a meeting with a delegation of lawmakers, which included German MEP Reinhard Bütikofer and British MP Iain Duncan Smith. The request for the meeting was organized by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, a bipartisan group of legislators with a focus on China.
During the meeting, Brudermüller reportedly stated that various audits conducted since 2019, including both internal and external ones, failed to uncover any misconduct or violations of our standards. However, the recent accusations involving BASF’s partner company were deemed to be a violation that crossed a crucial boundary.
Arfiya Eri, a Japanese politician, questioned Brudermüller about reports of rape, forced marriage, and forced consumption of pork and alcohol among Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Brudermüller responded that these descriptions are unimaginable for a normal mind and that the evidence of abuses in Xinjiang is reminiscent of dark moments in history, including in his own country. He emphasized that BASF has no connection to these actions. There is no accusation that Markor was involved in any of these abuses.
Brudermüller did not elaborate on a timeline for the withdrawal but said he hoped it would be within the next few months.
Eri described BASF’s choice to pull out of Xinjiang as a “pioneering and momentous” action.
Bütikofer praised BASF for their actions and believes them when they state their intention to withdraw as quickly as possible. With this decision, BASF has eliminated any justification other companies may have used to continue their involvement.
In 2022, BASF’s financial statements show that its businesses in Greater China made up 14% of their overall sales.
BASF has been requested to provide additional remarks.