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Which European Companies Are Working in Xinjiang?

A List of the European Companies on the Global Fortune 500 and Euro Stoxx Indexes That Do Business in Xinjiang

New reports of China’s network of extrajudicial detention camps in Xinjiang emerge almost weekly, with observers estimating as many as 1.5 million members of Muslim ethnic minorities, including Uighurs, Kazakhs, and others, have been detained. Those not held in the camps are living in what Amnesty International has called an “open-air prison” blanketed with advanced surveillance and peppered with invasive police checkpoints.

Meanwhile, foreign companies continue to conduct business in Xinjiang despite widespread evidence of human rights abuse. Some firms may even unwittingly benefit from the detentions. Supply chains for major clothing companies such as Adidas, H&M, and Esprit have become entangled with labor supplied by the camps, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Some companies working in Xinjiang have professed ignorance of what is taking place in the region. Herbert Diess, the CEO of Volkswagen, said he was “not aware” of the camps when asked about them by the BBC. But Volkswagen’s joint venture in China doesn’t seem to share his ignorance. When contacted for this report, Nikolas Thorke, a company spokesperson, suggested he understood well what working in Xinjiang entails. A quarter of the firm’s local hires in the region are ethnic minorities, he assured me. In an echo of the Chinese government’s explanation of its actions in the region, Thorke added, “Economic progress, encouraging suppliers to work in Xinjiang and a range of our own social projects have resulted in an enhanced social environment for all people.”

Features

10.02.18

Here Are the Fortune 500 Companies Doing Business in Xinjiang

News reports from the western Chinese region of Xinjiang have described alarming, widespread, and worsening violations of the human rights of its predominantly Muslim, ethnically Turkic inhabitants, primarily the region’s approximately 11 million...

Other firms working in Xinjiang have drawn far less media attention. Siemens, which has a branch office in Urumqi and sells technology components across Xinjiang, has also partnered with China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), a state-owned military contractor, to work on automation, digitization, and networking. CETC developed a policing app used in Xinjiang and its algorithms have sent people to the detention camps, according to a Human Rights Watch report. Telefonica, a Spanish communications company, has partnered with China Unicom to deploy anonymized population-tracking software in the region.

In the list below, I have identified 68 European companies with ties to Xinjiang. Their connections to the region range from building infrastructure and investing in joint ventures to selling cars and running retail shops. Starting in May 2019, I looked at the companies on the Euro Stoxx 50 index of large European companies (as of May 2, 2019) and the European firms that appear on the Global Fortune 500 2018 list, a total of 147 unique companies. I combed through corporate filings, news reports, and publicly available documents to find which had ties to Xinjiang and then contacted all of the applicable companies to offer them a chance to correct our data and/or comment on their presence in Xinjiang.

I found about a dozen European companies not on the Euro Stoxx index or Global Fortune 500 that have some connection to Xinjiang. These are not included on the list below. One of the largest and most recognizable of them is Carlsberg, the Danish beer giant that owns Wusu Beer Group and its six breweries across Xinjiang.

Readers with corrections or additional information are invited to submit the reporting form below the table.