European car imports held up in US over banned Chinese part

Snow glazes over the company logo on the grille of a 2024 Volkswagen GTI Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, in Denver.
Snow glazes over the company logo on the grille of a 2024 Volkswagen GTI Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, in Denver. Copyright David Zalubowski/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright David Zalubowski/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews
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Thousands of luxury VW cars have been seized by US customs officials over a part linked to allegations of forced labour in China's Xinjiang region.


US authorities have impounded and are investigating thousands of European luxury cars from brands such as Porsche, Bentley and Audi over allegations they have violated laws that ban imported goods made through forced labour in China.

According to the Financial Times, German car maker Volkswagen, which encompasses the likes of Porsche, Bentley and Audi, has decided to delay deliveries while the electronic components suspected of breaching the law are replaced.

The process may take until the end of March, due to the number of vehicles involved.

The Financial Times cited two people with knowledge of the matter, who reportedly said that while Volkswagen was not aware of the origin of the parts to be replaced, it alerted US authorities as soon as its supplier notified them they came from western China.

Under the US's Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), imports from China's western Xinjiang region are banned due to a presumption that they were made with forced labour.

The UN’s Human Rights office has said China’s discriminatory detention of Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in the region may constitute crimes against humanity.

The Chinese Communist Party has repeatedly denied the allegations.

A recent Human Rights Watch report warned earlier this month that many car manufacturers could be using aluminium produced with forced labour.

A spokesperson for Volkswagen said that the company "takes allegations of infringements of human rights very seriously, both within the company and in the supply chain. Of course, this also includes any allegations of forced labour."

"When we receive information on human rights risks or potential infringements, we strive to remedy them as quickly as possible," Volkswagen said. "As soon as we received information of allegations regarding one of our sub-suppliers, we have been investigating the matter."

The company added that at the end of the investigation, it will act accordingly, which "may also include the termination of a supplier relationship if our investigations confirm serious violations".

Volkswagen said earlier it was considering the future of its joint venture with Chinese manufacturer SAIC Motors, with which it owns a factory in Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi.

This isn't the first time Volkswagen has been linked to the forced labour of Uyghurs. 

German newspaper Handelsblatt reportedly obtained photographs showing Uyghur workers in military uniforms during the three-year construction of a car-testing track.

Researchers said this indicated they were part of forced labour programmes.

Volkswagen said at the time of the Handelsblatt report that it had been previously unaware of any human rights abuses at the track.

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