Sweet attack: Volkswagen annual meeting marred by cake strike by protestors

Protesters, alleging forced labour at Volkswagen facility in China, were quickly apprehended by security personnel present at the venue and were escor
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Helpers clean the podium in front of Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Porsche Automobil Holding SE and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG Dr. Wolfgang Porsche, after a disturbance by activists at the 63rd Annual General Meeting of Volkswagen AG in Berlin. (REUTERS)
Helpers clean the podium in front of Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Porsche Automobil Holding SE and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG Dr. Wolfgang Porsche, after a disturbance by activists at the 63rd Annual General Meeting of Volkswagen AG in Berlin.

Volkswagen Group's annual meeting recently was marred by a cake attack by people calling themselves as human-rights activists who were protesting against the company for allegedly turning a blind eye to charges of forced human labour at its Xinjiang plant in China.

Automotive News reported that a speech by Volkswagen Group CEO Oliver Blume was interrupted by a group of 10 activists who carried banners which read 'End Uyghur Forced Labor.' One of them even hurled a cake towards 80-year-old Wolfgang Porsche, Chairman of Porsche SE. While the cake missed its intended target, crumbs flew in almost all directions.

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The protesters were quickly apprehended by security personnel present at the venue and were escorted out of the premises. But the entire incident has managed to put the spotlight on allegations of forced labour at the Volkswagen plant in China, prompting a response from a company official who refuted the charges. “We do not see any evidence of human rights abuses at the plant," said Ralf Brandstaetter, Volkswagen Group China Chief.

Brandstaetter has himself visited the said plant - a joint venture with China's SAIC - earlier this year and reiterated that there is no evidence to suggest use of forced labour at the facility. But activists continue to be very vocal about the allegations they make, even suggesting that there are mass camps and a strict clampdown on anyone here to speak in protest.

China is an extremely important market for Volkswagen, as it is for most vehicle manufacturers in the world. Not only is the country the largest vehicle manufacturing nation but also the biggest in terms of sales, ahead of the US and India. As such, a seamless operation across chains is crucial to not just a company's prospects here but for its global sales and profits book as well. In the particular case of Volkswagen, the company has previously stated that it is committed to keeping its supply chain in China ‘clean.’

First Published Date: 11 May 2023, 10:32 AM IST
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