BASF is accelerating its exit from two joint ventures in China following allegations that its partner committed human rights abuses against the Uyghur population in Xinjiang.
Last week, politicians from around the world sent a letter to BASF chair Martin Brudermüller urging him to withdraw the chemicals company from the region. It follows an investigation published by Der Spiegel and ZDF which said that staff from BASF’s local partner Markor Chemical had visited the homes of Uyghurs in the province as part of a government campaign that human rights campaigners warn is used to spy on people and indoctrinate them.
Today, BASF said it will speed up its exit from two ventures it shares with Markor Chemical that make 1,4-butanediol and polytetrahydrofuran in Korla, Xinjiang. BASF said it has no indication that employees of the two ventures were involved in the human rights violations reported to have taken place in 2018 and 2019.
“Nonetheless, recently published reports related to the joint venture partner contain serious allegations that indicate activities inconsistent with BASF’s values. Consequently, BASF will accelerate the ongoing process to divest its shares in the two joint ventures in Korla, subject to negotiations and required approvals of the relevant authorities,” BASF said in a statement.
It added that audits of its venture have not turned up any evidence of abuses and that it had started the process of divesting its shares in the two joint ventures last year because the plants have relatively high carbon footprints due to the coal used as a raw material.
China accounts for around half of global chemicals production. BASF said it remains committed to its other activities and operations in the country, which include a €10bn (US$10.8bn) chemicals complex under construction in Zhanjiang.
China has been accused of systematic human rights abuses against Uyghurs, who are predominantly Muslim. In 2022, a UN report into human rights concerns in Xinjiang described mass detentions and allegations of forced sterilisation. China has denied the allegations and said its actions in Xinjiang are designed to counter extremism.
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