International human rights organization Human Rights Watch issued a report in which it accused Chinese companies of using forced labor for the needs of the auto industry. First of all, we are talking about the production of aluminum, which is necessary for the manufacture of car parts.
Most of Chinese aluminum is smelted in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the northwest of the country. About a million Chinese Muslims are held there in labor camps. HRW has information that inmate labor is used at aluminum plants.
In 2022, the world automotive industry depended on aluminum smelted in China for almost 60% – such figures are provided by the International Aluminum Institute. More than 15% of all Chinese aluminum – that’s 9% of its world production – is smelted in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Ego is used by both Chinese car manufacturers and foreign companies with production in China, such as Volkswagen, General Motors, Toyota and Tesla.
Human Rights Watch cites data that China uses forced labor of prisoners both in the production of aluminum and in other industries — for example, in coal mining for power plants that provide energy to aluminum plants.
HRW issued recommendations to companies — car manufacturers to refuse purchases of aluminum from the Xinjiang Uyghur region and to carefully track the origin of the metal they purchase. She advises the European Union to refuse imports from regions where forced labor is used. Special recommendations issued to Germany and the United States: HRW requires that the labor ministries of these countries adopt legislative measures so that their companies cannot use products of forced labor.
The organization calls the repression of the Chinese authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region crimes against humanity. The UN largely agrees with this definition, but has not made it official.
- Since 2017, China has been pursuing a policy of repression against the Muslim population and ethnic minorities in the north-west of the country. According to reports by international organizations, more than two million citizens, primarily ethnic Uyghurs and Kazakhs, are held in “re-education camps”, subjected to forced labor, ill-treatment and torture. The Chinese authorities deny these charges and say that Muslims are under the influence of “extremist” religious thought and must be “re-educated”.