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IG Metall questions VW plant in China's Xinjiang province

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BERLIN (Reuters) - The leader of Germany's powerful IG Metall trade union, who sits on the supervisory board of Volkswagen, has questioned whether it is in the carmaker's interests to continue to operate a plant in China's Xinjiang region.

The United States, Britain and other countries called this month for the International Labour Organization to set up a mission to probe alleged labour abuses in Xinjiang and urged Beijing to allow unfettered access.

There is no evidence of human rights violations at the VW plant, IG Metall leader Joerg Hofmann said.

"Nevertheless, the overall question is what it means for the reputation of the company to continue to be invested there," Hofmann, who is deputy chairman of the VW supervisory board, told the Wolfsburger Nachrichten newspaper.

Volkswagen said in response to a Reuters question about Hofmann's comment that the carmaker is "firmly opposed to forced labour in connection with its business activities worldwide", and ensures that its standards are adhered to.

"As a globally active company, the Volkswagen Group stands for individual freedom, fair working conditions, open world trade, economic development and peaceful coexistence," added the company, which also on Friday announced a revamp of its China management team.

China has denied Western allegations of forced labour and genocide against Uyghurs in Xinjiang and has warned other countries not to interfere in China's domestic affairs by criticizing its actions in the region.

Stephan Weil, the premier of the state of Lower Saxony, one of Volkswagen's biggest shareholders, said there were no indications that human rights or labour rights had been violated at the VW plant.

"However, this does not release the group from its duty to deal intensively with the issue and to examine the allegations on the human rights situation closely, which is being done," he added.

(Reporting by Jan Schwartz; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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