Senate Committee Chair Questions BMW Over Forced Labor Allegations

The Committee has asked BMW to provide answers about its alleged use of parts manufactured in China’s Xinjiang region.
Senate Committee Chair Questions BMW Over Forced Labor Allegations
Cars on the assembly line at the BMW Spartanburg plant in Greer, S.C., on Oct. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

The chair of a U.S. Senate committee has asked automaker BMW to provide information about its alleged use of components made by a Chinese supplier sanctioned for using forced labor.

In a June 10 letter to BMW North America CEO Sebastian Mackensen, Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) raised concerns about human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region and called on the automaker to provide “straight answers” for the committee’s ongoing investigation.
“BMW has yet to provide clear answers about when it knew autos imported to the U.S. contained banned Chinese parts, how it responded, and how many vehicles were affected,” the committee said in a press release.
The Senate Finance Committee’s investigative report, released last month, found that BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, and Volkswagen bought LAN transformers—a module that connects a vehicle’s electronics—manufactured by Sichuan Jingweida Technology Group (JWD), a Chinese company blacklisted for using Uyghur forced labor in Xinjiang.

The probe, launched by the committee two years ago, discovered that some of these parts have been used in vehicles imported to the United States even after automakers assured the committee that they have “robust compliance programs” to prevent components made with forced labor from entering their supply chains.

“The United States considers the Chinese government’s brutal oppression of Uyghurs in [Xinjiang] an ‘ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity,’” Mr. Wyden wrote. “The Committee is continuing to investigate several aspects of BMW’s exposure to forced labor through JWD.”

The Department of Homeland Security in December 2023 placed JWD on its entity (trade restriction) list under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) for its involvement in business practices targeting persecuted groups, including Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

According to the report, BMW knew JWD would be added to the entity list and was aware that JWD was the supplier and manufacturer of the banned parts sold to BMW. “Despite this, BMW disclosed to the committee that it imported at least 8,000 MINI vehicles, as well as spare parts, with JWD LAN transformers presumptively made with forced labor,” the report reads.

The LAN transformers were sourced via California-based Bourns, Inc., which in turn provided them to Michigan-based Lear Corp., a direct supplier for BMW and Jaguar Land Rover, the report said.

“In fact, BMW continued to import products manufactured by JWD until at least April 2024 and appears to have stopped only after the Committee repeatedly asked detailed questions to Lear and Lear’s OEM customers, including BMW, about their relationship with JWD,” the report found.

Mr. Wyden asked BMW to respond to multiple questions regarding the forced labor exposure in the report, including details on how it has handled the situation and the number of cars affected.

The Epoch Times has reached out to BMW for comment. Last month, when asked about the Senate report, a spokesperson for BMW told The Epoch Times in an email: “We were informed by one of our direct suppliers that a sub-supplier in its supply chain was on the UFLPA Entity List. This sub-supplier provided a subcomponent for a larger electronic unit. BMW Group has taken steps to halt the importation of affected products and will be conducting a service action with customer and dealer notification for affected motor vehicles.”

Measures Against Forced Labor

Congress enacted the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) in 2021 in response to mass forced labor in Xinjiang, to ensure that goods made with forced labor in the region are restricted from entry into the United States.

The UFLPA presumes that the importation of any goods manufactured in Xinjiang violates section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930, which prohibits the importation of products made with forced labor. The Chinese communist regime has established a vast network of mass internment camps for Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

To avoid the import ban, companies must prove, with clear and convincing evidence, that their goods manufactured in Xinjiang are not made using forced labor.

Washington has accused Beijing of ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity that target Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang. China denies the allegations.
Last month, lawmakers also questioned MSCI, a finance company and index provider, about why it removed the “red flag” rating from one of the three automakers in the committee’s report, Volkswagen. The rating was initially assigned over alleged forced labor concerns in its jointly owned plant in the Xinjiang region.
In 2020, a report from the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China found that multiple corporations, including Adidas, Nike, Coca-Cola, and Costco, have been allegedly linked to forced labor in the region.
Bill Pan contributed to this report.