CHINA – BASF, the German chemicals producer, has unveiled intentions to divest its stakes in BASF Markor Chemical Manufacturing and Markor Meiou Chemical amid allegations of ‘gross abuse’ of Uyghurs by employees in its Xinjiang joint ventures.

The announcement was prefaced by concerns regarding the carbon footprint of 1,4-butanediol (BDO) production at the facilities, which rely on coal as a primary raw material and energy source.

However, BASF faced scrutiny following a joint investigation by German media outlets ZDF and Der Spiegel on Feb. 2, which exposed employees of BASF Markor Chemical Manufacturing allegedly spying on Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic and religious minority in China.

Human rights organizations have extensively documented the mass detention, surveillance, and mistreatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, allegations that the Chinese government vehemently denies.

The investigation uncovered instances where Markor employees, in 2018 and 2019, accompanied Chinese state officials on home visits to Uyghur families.

These ‘home visits,’ according to human rights groups, are part of a Chinese government initiative known as fanghuiju, aimed at surveillance and indoctrination of the predominantly Muslim minority group.

Citing sources, the ZDF-Spiegel investigation alleged that reports from BASF’s joint venture indicated Markor employees’ involvement in state security, surveillance, and activities supporting the mass internment of minorities.

BASF asserts no awareness of such actions. Despite operating the two joint ventures since 2016, BASF claims to have implemented ‘regular due diligence measures,’ with internal and external audits yielding no evidence of human rights violations.

However, BASF acknowledges recent reports suggesting activities incongruent with its values.

In a statement on Feb. 9, BASF announced plans to expedite divestment negotiations, subject to relevant authorities’ approvals.

It stressed no indication of joint venture employees’ involvement in human rights violations, emphasizing recent reports pertain to its joint venture partner, in which BASF holds no stake.

BASF’s joint facilities produce 1,4-butanediol and poly-THF, employing approximately 120 individuals, with 40 under BASF Markor Chemical Manufacturing. BASF affirms preventive measures to ensure compliance with its global Code of Conduct in these joint ventures on its website.

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