Biden Administration Takes New Interagency Action on Forced Labor Products in Xinjiang

U.S. Government Takes Interagency Action on Forced Labor in Xinjiang. The Biden administration said Thursday (June 24) that it is banning key materials used in solar panels produced by China’s Xinjiang Hersheng Silicon Corporation and its subsidiaries from entering the U.S. market and continues to support the development of a clean energy supply chain within the United States. This is part of a broader effort by Washington to begin addressing ongoing human rights abuses and forced labor in Xinjiang, and to combat what the U.S. says are unfair economic practices in China and promote the development of a clean energy industry in the United States. Biden administration officials say the action will not affect U.S. clean energy goals.

The White House said Thursday in a fact sheet on new U.S. government action against forced labor in Xinjiang that U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a hold on silicon-based products made by Xinjiang-based Hoshine Silicon Industry Co., Ltd. and its subsidiaries because there was reasonable information that the company used forced labor to produce the silicon-based products. As a result, personnel at all U.S. ports of entry have been instructed to immediately begin detaining materials and goods containing silicon-based products manufactured by Hershey Silicon or derived from or using such silicon-based products.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Commerce on June 23 added five Chinese entities accused of human rights violations to its list of export control entities, including Hershey Silicon, several major manufacturers of monocrystalline and polysilicon for solar panels, and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor updated its “List of Products Produced by Child or Forced Labor” in a Federal Register notice to include polysilicon produced in China with forced labor on the list.

The White House said the Labor Department updates this list every two years, and this is the first time a product has been added outside of that two-year cycle, “highlighting its strong reaction to the serious human rights abuses being suffered by the Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang.”

The White House also said this is the latest move by the Biden administration to put into practice the G-7’s commitment to ensure that forced labor is not used in global supply chains. Leaders of the G-7 unanimously opposed forced labor at their recent summit in Cornwall, England, and pledged to ensure that global supply chains do not use forced labor.

A State Department spokesperson also issued a statement on the issue Thursday, saying it will continue to work with U.S. partners and allies to “promote accountability for the use of forced labor by the government of the People’s Republic of China in Xinjiang and for genocide and crimes against humanity against the Uighurs and other ethnic and religious minorities. “

The State Department also joins allies around the world in calling on the People’s Republic of China to immediately end these crimes and bring justice to the many victims.

In addition to human rights concerns, the Biden administration’s ban on solar panel materials also has economic considerations, including supporting America’s own clean energy industry.

“These actions demonstrate our commitment to making the People’s Republic of China pay an additional price for engaging in cruel and inhumane forced labor and ensuring that Beijing complies with fair trade rules as part of a rules-based international order,” the White House said in a fact sheet on forced labor in Xinjiang. “The United States believes that the state-sponsored forced labor occurring in Xinjiang is both an affront to human dignity and an example of unfair economic practices in the People’s Republic of China.”

The White House added that China’s forced labor practices are contrary to American values, expose American consumers to unethical practices, and disadvantage American workers and businesses.

The White House added: “By allowing companies to exploit workers and artificially depress wages to gain an advantage over their competitors, they also allow American businesses and workers to compete on an uneven playing field. The United States will not tolerate forced labor in our supply chains and will continue to uphold our values and stand up for the interests of American workers and businesses.”

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the ban on imports of polysilicon and solar products made with forced labor will not hinder the Biden administration’s clean energy goals.

“Our environmental goals will not be achieved by oppressing human beings in an environment of forced labor,” Mayorkas said at a news conference. “We will eradicate forced labor, wherever it is.”

The White House said the United States will continue to support the development of a transparent, diverse, clean energy supply chain free of forced labor at home and support President Biden’s commitment to climate action, the domestic solar industry and the jobs created by this important industry.

As the Biden administration takes more action on forced labor in Xinjiang, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday referred the Forced Uighur Labor Prevention Act to the full Senate for debate. The bill, introduced by Republican U.S. Sen. Rubio from Florida and Democratic U.S. Sen. Merkley from Oregon, if it becomes law, would ban all products from Xinjiang unless importers can prove they were not produced through forced labor.

“It’s slavery. It’s as simple as that,” Rubio told the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. “American companies argue that their supply chains are clean, and what this bill says is: prove it.