For the first time, the German government has rejected investment guarantees for a company because of the human rights situation in the Chinese province of Xinjiang. A total of four applications for the extension of guarantees are affected, as the Federal Ministry of Economics announced on Friday. A company name was not mentioned. According to the “Spiegel” it should be Volkswagen.

The ministry referred to the human rights situation in Xinjiang. This has intensified in recent years and is “characterized by forced labor and mass internment of members of the Uyghur minority”. The federal government is therefore no longer providing investment guarantees for certain projects in China. This applies to projects in Xinjiang itself or projects with business relationships there. According to the ministry, the applications that have now been rejected were related to a business location in Xinjiang or it could not be ruled out.

A VW spokesman only confirmed that the group had applied for the investment guarantees. “So far we have not received any response to our requests from the federal government. We await a decision,” he said. A refusal is also possible. Company circles said that the investment decision would not be affected by a rejection.

Investment guarantees from the federal government serve to promote foreign trade. They protect investments by German companies, for example in emerging countries like China, and then come into effect when companies are expropriated or a state breaks binding commitments. According to the Economics Ministry, newly assumed investment guarantees amounted to 2.6 billion euros last year.

Since the new federal government took office, 13 applications for the assumption or extension of investment guarantees in China have been approved. They had no relation to Xinjiang.

The Chinese leadership has been criticized for years for its treatment of the region’s Muslim Uyghur minority. According to researchers and human rights activists, more than a million people have been sent to re-education camps there. Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) said this week that the People’s Republic is a major trading partner, but there are also “very relevant problems” with human rights.

The government in Beijing justifies its actions against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang with allegations of separatism, extremism and terrorism. The Muslim minority feels oppressed politically, religiously and culturally. The parliaments of Canada, the Netherlands and Great Britain condemned the persecution as genocide.