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Beyond the Volkswagen Scandal: Clean Bills of Health on China’s Slave Labor Are “All” False

Employees of the consultancy firm Löning rebelled against a report falsely certifying that Volkswagen did not use slave labor in Xinjiang. But the problem is much broader.



By Hu Zimo

December 19, 2023


Volkswagen’s factory in Urumqi, Xinjiang. From Weibo.


Many Chinese netizens who know how to use a VPN are now aware of the latest slave labor scandal in China. Volkswagen was accused of being one of the beneficiaries of Uyghur slave labor in its Xinjiang plant. To answer the chargers, the German car company entrusted the specialized consultancy firm Löning to investigate the matter. Löning gave Volkswagen a clean bill of health, certifying that its audit “did not find any indication or evidence or forced labor among the employees” of the Xinjiang factory.


Case closed? Not exactly. A few days after Volkswagen broadcasted the good news, all the twenty employees of Löning, except the founder Markus Löning and another executive, Christian Ewert, posted on LinkedIn a statement disassociating themselves from the so-called audit. They reported that in fact the “audit” had been conducted by two Chinese lawyers of an unnamed Shenzhen law firm assisted by Christian Ewert. It was not even necessary to read between the lines to understand that the Löning employees, all experienced professionals, regarded the “audit” as a joke seriously damaging the reputation of their firm.


So far so “not” good. However, what Westerners who have followed the Volkswagen- Löning fiasco may fail to understand is that this is not an isolated scandal. All the “audits” and “inspections” certifying that foreign companies in China do not use slave labor and their employees are well-paid, happy, and cheerful are a joke. Löning is not the exception. It is the rule.



The LinkedIn post of Löning employees.


The problem did not start in 2023, but in 2021. Until then, foreign companies and organizations that wanted to seriously control whether there were slave labor problems in their factories in China might use Shenzhen Verite, the Chinese branch of the U.S. labor rights nonprofit Verite Inc. Its reports were generally reliable. However, in April 2021, the offices of Shenzhen Verite were raided by the police and the organization was effectively put out of business.


Later, Chinese propaganda media lamented that after concerns about the Uyghur question became widespread, the “audit standards for Chinese companies [used by organizations such as Verite] became more detailed, especially concerning the new requirements for the content related to the so-called ‘Xinjiang labor.’” According to the CCP propaganda mouthpiece “Global Times,” the audit company had the audacity of “actively collecting information about the so-called human rights issues in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in order to concoct ‘forced labor’ lies and provide ‘endorsement’ for Western anti-China forces to manipulate Xinjiang-related issues and enforce related sanctions.”


Those supplying information to the audit organization were “punished” and the message could not have been clearer. Only fake “audits” are allowed in China. The real ones are prohibited. Firms producing them are shut down and Chinese who cooperate with them go to jail.


The conclusion is that the “audits” obtained today have no credibility whatsoever. In fact, obtaining and publishing these reports should be understood as further evidence that international companies are involved in the dirty business of the slave labor market and are trying to conceal it.




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