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30 th anniversary of Mauerfall

A few days after the 30th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Angela Merkel gave a compelling speech expressing Germany’s strong concern on freedom and human rights issues.

However, her acts belie her words.

The Germany federal parliament recently voted on a motion which proposes to cease, investigate and punish serious human rights violations in Xinjiang, China. (DE: Schwere Menschenrechtsverletzungen in Xinjiang beenden, aufklären und ahnden.) The motion has multiple demands, for example asking the Chinese government to release Uyghurs whose lives are endangered by the Chinese government, via the Federal Ministry of the Interior, for Building and Home Affairs not to deport Uighurs and ethnic Kazakhs to China, just to name a few.

While the motion is supported by the Green Party and FDP, the parliament has rejected the motion due to votes from the CDU/CSU, SPD, and AfD, whereas CDU is the political party which chancellor Angela Merkel belongs to.


“But the values on which Europe is founded – freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, respect for human rights – are anything but self-evident. (…) In the future too, Europe must stand up for democracy and freedom, for human rights and tolerance. In times of profound technological and global change, this is more topical than ever.”

A Heading

The human rights issues in Xinjiang may seem remote, yet in fact they have already been exported from China to every corner of the world, including Germany. As close as your neighbourhood, and even inside your wardrobe. China is the largest cotton producer in the world , accounting for 26% of global exports and almost 85% of its cotton is picked by Uyghurs in Xinjiang. World renowned retail chains, including IKEA, Muji, Uniqlo, H&M, Jeanswest, and Dangerfield, were revealed to have purchased cotton from Xinjiang — but most of the brands do not present “Xinjiang Cotton” as a selling point.

Since the Ürümqi riots in 2009, Xinjiang has long been under high degree control under the Communist Party of China (CPC). After Xi had become the president of China, the suppression of dissidents has become astonishingly strong. Under the name of deterring Uyghurs from extremism, the CPC takes various measures to erase Uyghuran cultures, identities and their religious beliefs. On one hand, the 
Uyghurs’ cemeteries were removed and rebuilt into so-called “Happiness parks”, and the islamic religious sites were further demolished. On the other hand, the Uyghurs are forced to celebrate Chinese festivals and abandon their mother language.

Many or most products made in China that rely at least in part on low-skilled, labour-intensive manufacturing can contain elements of involuntary ethnic minority labour from Xinjiang. The United Nations estimate from last year, around 1 million Uyghus are being forcibly held in the re-education camps in Xinjiang. This provides a huge supply of forced labour to the companies in Xinjiang. Inside the “vocational training centres”, the detainees are forced to work for producing garments, carpets, cleaning supplies, and other goods for domestic and international distribution. However, there is evidence showing that part of the detainees had already their own jobs, some were even successful businessmen.

Many multinational companies are expanding their business to China neglecting the abuse of human rights in the country, or even taking advantage of the corrupted system. China is the biggest trading partner of Germany and many German enterprises have set up their joint ventures with state-owned companies in China. The Volkswagen group has opened a plant in Xinjiang in 2013, which is within 90-minutes drive from four detention camps. However, the CEO Herbert Diess claimed that he was not informed of such mass detention.

Indeed, nearly half of the top 150 European enterprises have business in Xinjiang. Siemens collaborates with a Chinese state-owned military contractor, which has developed a police app in Xinjiang leading some Uyghurs sent to detention camps. Some enterprises even take part in the bribery game in China. From 2003 to 2013, Deutsche Bank has employed different family members of Chinese leaders to get its way to China, as it should be, they didn’t forget to send luxury gifts to Chinese leaders to win the deals.

The utilitarian mindset of making deals with evil has removed the obstacles for CPC to keep suppressing human rights.

Human rights should not be given a lower priority compared to other social concerns. The rising trend of veganism and fair-trade shows consumers’ increasing awareness of production ethics in Germany. People demand a greater transparency on the production chain of the daily products they buy, as they want to ensure neither animal rights nor the environment are harmed by their consumption behaviours. The story of Xinjiang should remind people in Europe: the history of totalitarian rule is not yet over. There are still people – a whole race indeed – who have no chance to retire and spend their first trip in the US.


  1. „Doch die Werte, auf die sich Europa gründet – Freiheit, Demokratie, Gleichheit, Rechtsstaatlichkeit, die Wahrung der Menschenrechte –, sind alles andere als selbstverständlich. Sie müssen immer wieder neu gelebt und verteidigt werden. Auch in Zukunft muss Europa für Demokratie und Freiheit, für Menschenrechte und Toleranz einstehen. Das ist in Zeiten tiefgreifender technologischer und globaler Veränderungen aktueller denn je.”                                                                   Rede von Bundeskanzlerin Merkel bei der Andacht zum 30. Jahrestag des Mauerfalls in der „Kapelle der Versöhnung” am 9. November 2019 in Berlin. (2019, November 9). Retrieved November 12, 2019, from
  2. Antrag der Abgeordneten Margarete Bause, Kai Gehring, Jürgen Trittin, Dr. Franziska Brantner, Agnieszka Brugger, Ottmar von Holtz, Uwe Kekeritz, Katja Keul, Dr. Tobias Lindner, Omid Nouripour, Cem Özdemir, Claudia Roth (Augsburg), Manuel Sarrazin, Dr. Frithjof Schmidt und der Fraktion BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN Schwere Menschenrechtsverletzungen in Xinjiang beenden, aufklären und ahnden. (2019, November 7). Retrieved November 12, 2019, from
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  9. Uyghur is a Turkic speaking islamic ethnic minority in northwest China.
  10. China subsidising Xinjiang companies’ use of forced labour. (2019, October 18). Retrieved from
  11. Hartman, L., & Hartman, L. (2019, May 2). Why does China ‘retrain’ successful businessmen? Retrieved from
  12. Haas, B. (2019, August 21). European Companies Get Rich in China’s ‘Open Air Prison’. Retrieved from
  13. Forsythe, M., Enrich, D., & Stevenson, A. (2019, October 14). Inside a Brazen Scheme to Woo China: Gifts, Golf and a $4,254 Wine. Retrieved from

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