Hampstead protest defending Uighur Muslims takes to Volkswagen Finchley Road
- Credit: Joshua Thurston
A protester who has long rallied against the reported oppression of Uighur Muslims in China is expanding his weekly protests from Hampstead into Finchley Road.
Andrew, from Hampstead Garden Suburb, has held weekly demonstrations for nearly two years outside the Chinese embassy in West Heath Road against the government’s alleged discrimination of its Uighur community.
Now the Orthodox Jew, who is in his 50s, is taking the cause to the Volkswagen garage in Finchley Road where he is calling on the German car manufacturer to close its factory in the Chinese region of Xinjiang.
China has denied allegations of human rights’ abuses in detention camps in the north west province, which is home to millions of ethnic Muslim Uighurs.
The government has claimed these centres are for “re-education”.
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Volkswagen employs 600 workers at a car plant in Xinjiang, where it said there is “no evidence” of forced labour.
Protester Andrew, who asked for his surname not to be used, told the Ham&High: “Our key message is to close the concentration camps, get these women and men and children back into their homes.
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“It's got to stop now, their lives are in peril.”
Andrew said his longstanding Hampstead protests have received support from the “vast majority” of passers-by, including neighbours and drivers who honk their horns or flash their lights.
However the businessman estimated that three to four per cent are hostile and he said that he sometimes receives the “worst of both worlds” – antisemitic and Islamophobic abuse.
Yet his defiance to stand up for the Uighur population – 4,000 miles away from Hampstead – is unwavering.
He called on Volkswagen to cease its operations in the Chinese region “immediately”, adding: “Volkswagen’s operation of a factory in the midst of the camps in Xinjiang is totally unacceptable for any Western company, and we would be protesting against any car company with a factory in Xinjiang.”
In response, Volkswagen said it stands up for human rights and said that it is “very aware that business activity must never be a carte blanche for indifference or irresponsibility”.
A spokesperson for the car manufacturer said: “Volkswagen and its joint ventures strictly oppose any form of forced labour in our operations anywhere in the world, including China.
“We have no evidence that forced labour is being used in our direct supply chain or at any of our production plants.
“At our plant in Urumqi [the capital of Xinjiang], all employees have a direct labour contract with SAIC Volkswagen with equal pay for equal jobs.”
The spokesperson added: “Volkswagen has built a long history with China and we remain firmly committed to our presence here.”