The Biden administration is considering sanctions against the use of forced labor in the production of solar panels and other components in Xinjiang, China, said John Kerry, the U.S. president’s climate envoy.
After Xinjiang cotton, Xinjiang-made solar panels could become another industry sanctioned by the United States. Kerry revealed Wednesday (12) at a hearing held by the House Foreign Affairs Committee of Congress that the White House determined that some of the solar panels produced in Xinjiang, as well as a certain rare earth mineral produced in large quantities for use in solar panels, were produced by Uighurs subject to forced labor.
Kerry said the Biden administration is considering sanctions.
Kerry, who visited China in April and is the first U.S. official to do so in the Biden administration, has been seeking cooperation with China on climate change.
He said Wednesday that getting solar panels from China’s Xinjiang province is a problem for the U.S. climate strategy, given the presence of forced labor and China’s strong position in the solar panel market.
Kerry remained hopeful about U.S.-China cooperation on climate change, saying Wednesday that Beijing has “made a move” in addressing climate issues after substantive climate talks.
However, Kerry also said the Biden administration would not “rely on someone’s word” to ensure that China has met its climate commitments; it would be “foolish and malfeasant” for the U.S. to trust China’s rhetoric alone.
British Report Reveals Solar Industry Particularly Vulnerable to Forced Labor
A new British report says that China’s solar industry supply chain is suspected of forcing labor on ethnic minorities such as the Uighurs in Xinjiang, from the extraction and processing of raw materials at the very beginning of this solar panel supply chain in quartz to the production of polysilicon, a key component in the manufacture of solar panels, all containing forced labor.
The report was co-authored by Laura Murphy, professor of human rights and contemporary slavery at the Helena Kennedy Center for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University, and Nyrola Elimä, a supply chain analyst who has lived in the Uighur region of Xinjiang for 19 years. . CNN previously reported that one of Elimä’s relatives was imprisoned in a Xinjiang detention camp.
The report cites hundreds of publicly disclosed corporate information, government statements, official media articles, social media posts, industry reports and satellite imagery, and details their investigation of more than 30 solar product companies to determine whether forced labor exists in their supply chains.
“The solar industry is particularly vulnerable to forced labor in Uyghur regions.” the report reads.
Major cell panel components are even more hard hit by forced labor
The report found that 95 percent of solar modules rely on solar-grade polysilicon as a primary component material, that polysilicon manufacturers in the Uyghur region of Xinjiang account for about 45 percent of the global supply of solar-grade polysilicon, and that Hershey Silicon, the largest producer of metallurgical-grade silicon in Xinjiang, is involved in labor diversion programs and is involved in forced labor through its quartz suppliers.
“All four polysilicon manufacturers in the Uyghur region are suspected of Uyghur forced labor, either through direct participation in forced labor programs or through raw material procurement,” the report concluded.
They also found that 11 companies in the solar industry participated in the Communist government’s “labor transfer” program to fight poverty, that four other companies located in industrial parks received transferred labor, and that the supply chains of 90 Chinese and international companies were affected by forced labor.
They argue that the CCP government’s “labor transfer” programs in Xinjiang are implemented in an unprecedentedly high-handed environment, including the constant threat of re-education and detention, and that these programs amount to forced population transfer and slavery.
A 2020 report by Horizon Advisory, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, said that some major Chinese solar companies have used labor transferred from the Xinjiang region with government support.
The Solar Energy Industries Association of America (SEIA) released a supply chain traceability guide last week that it said would help solar companies avoid products suspected of forced labor and other unethical labor practices.
Chinese Communist Party Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Wednesday again denied the existence of forced labor in Xinjiang.