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Berlin refuses investment guarantees due to human rights in China

Berlin refuses investment guarantees due to human rights in China

Berlin (dpa) - The German government has refused to provide investment guarantees to a company due to the human rights situation in China, the first time it has done so as concerns grow about the sufferings of minorities in the country. The ministry justified the step referring to the human rights situation in Xinjiang province, which has worsened in recent years and is "characterized by forced labour and mass internment of members of the Uighur minority." The German government therefore no longer provides investment guarantees for certain projects in China. The step concerns projects in Xinjiang itself or projects with business relations in the province. Four applications for the extension of guarantees were affected, the German Ministry for Economic Affairs said on Friday. No companies were named but according to Der Spiegel magazine the firm in question is likely to be German carmaker Volkswagen. According to the ministry, the applications that have now been rejected had a connection to a permanent establishment in Xinjiang. A VW spokesperson only confirmed that the group had applied for investment guarantees. "We have not yet received a response to our applications from the federal government. We are awaiting a decision," he said. A rejection was also possible, he added. Company sources said, however, that the investment decision would not be affected by a rejection. Investment guarantees from the German government serve to promote foreign trade. They protect investments by German companies, for example in emerging countries such as China, and take effect when companies are expropriated or a state breaks binding commitments. Last year, newly assumed investment guarantees amounted to ?2.6 billion ($2.79 billion), according to the Ministry of Economics. Since the new government under Chancellor Olaf Scholz took office, 13 applications to take over or extend investment guarantees in China have been approved. However, they did not involve reference to Xinjiang. The Chinese leadership has been criticized for years for its treatment of the Uighur minority in the region. Human rights activists say hundreds of thousands of people have been put into re-education camps there. German Economy and Environment Minister Robert Habeck said this week that although China is a major trading partner, there are also "very relevant problems" with human rights. Beijing accuses Uighurs in Xinjiang of separatism, extremism and terrorism, while the Muslim minority feels politically, religiously and culturally oppressed. Chinese leader Xi Jinping this week spoke out against foreign interference in his country''s domestic affairs under the pretext of human rights concerns. "Countries do not need patronizing lecturers; still less should human rights issues be politicized and used as a tool to apply double standards, or as a pretext to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries," he said during a video call with UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet.

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