Volkswagen has said it is “absolutely holding onto” its intent to audit its Xinjiang plant in northwestern China.

The statement came after fresh concerns about potential human rights violations.

An open letter from the German Association of Ethical Shareholders claimed that. while the automaker took the risk of “potential human rights violations” seriously, there was “serious evidence of forced labour in relations to VW’s supply chains.”

VW responded: “In contrast to you, we are convinced that an audit by an independent auditor can deliver important information about the human rights situation at the Urumqi plant.”

The statement was published on the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre website, Reuters reported.

VW has been hit by mounting scrutiny and and investor and shareholder doubts over its presence in Xinjiang.

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The annual shareholders meeting was disrupted by activists who were protesting its factory in the region.

Earlier this month, the Association of Critical Shareholders, an investor association, challenged the automaker on its planned audit.

Human rights groups such as the United Nations and Amnesty International have raised numerous concerns over the alleged treatment of Uyghurs, Han Chinese and other ethnic minority groups in the Xinjiang region. There were claims Uyghurs and other minority groups were being arbitrary detained in so-called ‘re-education’ camps.

This month, the US government will introduce the Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act which bans goods from Xinjiang unless US importers can prove they are not made with forced labour.

China denied any human rights abuses.

VW has consistently defended its plant, saying it had found no evidence of human rights violations.

Last February this year its China operations chief Ralf Brandstaetter visited the plant and maintained there was no evidence to support allegations of human rights violations.