The name of the Uighurs does not appear explicitly in BASF’s statement, not once. But it’s about the Muslim minority living in the Xinjiang autonomous region in northwest China. There have been repeated reports of state re-education camps for Uyghurs, forced labor and other forms of oppression by China. The German chemical company BASF is now withdrawing from the region and is looking for buyers for its two joint ventures with the Chinese one Pursue Markor in Korla. The company announced this on Friday. According to BASF, the sale was initiated in the fourth quarter of 2023, but how long it will last is unclear. The company said the latest reports would speed up the process.
The magazine Mirror and the ZDF magazine Frontal had reported that Markor employees participated in state surveillance of Uyghurs and took part in activities related to their internment. According to BASF, the latest reports contain “serious allegations” that point to activities by the joint venture partner that are not compatible with BASF’s values. However, the group also points out that in connection with the most recent reports it has no indication that employees of the two joint ventures were involved in human rights violations.
CEO Brudermüller speaks with parliamentarian Bütikofer
In the past few days, the pressure on the Ludwigshafen-based company has increased significantly. The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance China Brudermüller had asked in a letter that the company should withdraw from Xinjiang and urgently asked for a meeting. According to SZ information, the conversation took place online on Friday. According to the company, BASF CEO Martin Brudermüller and, among others, European MP Reinhard Bütikofer (Greens) took part. This was expressed on Friday on X (formerly Twitter). There are no more excuses. “Markor’s activities cannot be glossed over or downplayed,” Bütikofer writes on
BASF officially justifies the withdrawal with the changed market environment. The joint ventures were founded in 2013, with BASF holding the majority in one and Markor in the other. Since 2016, they have been producing intermediate products for the production of plastics, solvents, electronic chemicals and elastic fibers, for example for swimsuits, sports underwear and stretch jeans. There is overcapacity for the products worldwide and in Korla they are made from coal, which means the ecological footprint is worse than elsewhere, it said.
And BASF sends another clear message at the end of the communication, probably also to the People’s Republic. “BASF’s presence in China otherwise remains unchanged” and the company is sticking to its business activities and planned investments “in full”. BASF is currently building a $10 billion plant in Zhanjiang.