The White House on Thursday announced a series of steps to tackle forced labor in the solar module supply chain in China, including a ban on imports of products from a silicon manufacturer in the Xinjiang region.
A significant portion of the world’s polysilicon used to make solar panels comes from Xinjiang, where the United States has accused China of genocide by suppressing Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.
In one of the newly announced measures, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has banned the import of silica-based products from the Hoshine Silicon Industry Company, as well as goods made using those products.
The Department of Commerce has also blacklisted Hoshine Silicon Industry (Shanshan) Company and four other Chinese companies for trading, a move preventing American companies from exporting products and technology to them. The other companies are Xinjiang Daqo New Energy Company, Xinjiang East Hope Nonferrous Metals Company, Xinjiang GCL New Energy Material Technology Company, and Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.
These institutions, the department said, “have been implicated in human rights abuses and abuses in the conduct of the Chinese repression campaign, arbitrary mass arrests, forced labor and high-tech surveillance against Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups.” Xinjiang.
In addition, the Ministry of Labor has put Chinese polysilicon on a list of goods believed to be made by child labor or forced labor. The list, which already included a number of other Chinese goods, is intended to raise awareness of exploitative labor practices.
Allegations of forced labor in the solar module supply chain have placed President Biden and his staff in a dilemma. The government wants to pressure China for human rights abuses, but also wants to expand the use of clean energy sources such as solar energy in the United States to reduce CO2 emissions.
Shortly before Mr. Biden took office, the Trump administration banned imports of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang. The Biden government has come under pressure to take action containing locally made products that contain polysilicon.
In a letter to the acting head of Customs and Border Protection earlier this month, a group of Democrats in the House of Representatives wrote that there was “overwhelming evidence of the use of forced labor in polysilicon production,” adding, “Our government cannot stand idly by.”