Volkswagen is in talks with its JV partner SAIC in China after a German business newspaper, Handelsblatt, said it had found evidence of the carmaker’s involvement in alleged forced labour, Reuters reports.

VW’s presence in Xinjiang has been a long-running source of contention, as the region has been subject to allegations of human rights abuses – including forced labour – against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.

Last May, VW’s annual shareholders’ meeting was targeted by activists, who called for an external audit of its Xinjiang plant.

VW has strenuously and continuously denied the allegations of forced labour connected to its Xinjiang plant.

In an audit carried out at the end of 2023, VW said it had found “no evidence” of forced labour.

The audit was undertaken by firm Loening Human Rights & Responsible Business GmbH, but executed by a Shenzhen law firm.

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VW faced fresh allegations in February this year, alongside other high-profile automakers such as BYD, Tesla, and General Motors.

Human Rights Watch published a report accusing the auto giants of failing to prevent the exploitation of Uyghur workers at aluminium production sites in Xinjiang.

When asked by Reuters for a comment about the most recent allegations put forward by Handelsblatt, a VW spokesperson told the news agency: “Volkswagen is currently in talks with the non-controlled joint venture SAIC-Volkswagen about the future direction of business activities in Xinjiang province. Different scenarios are being considered intensively.”