January 20, 2021

Chinese Solar Companies Tied to Use of Forced Labor

That same year, according to a Chinese news report cited by Horizon, Xinjiang’s Yarkand County signed a “labor export cooperation framework agreement” with a subsidiary named East Hope Group Xinjiang Aluminum Company.

Another subsidiary of East Hope, Xinjiang East Hope Nonferrous Metals Co., “accepted 235 ethnic minority employees from southern Xinjiang,” who were given training to make up for “low educational qualifications, weak national language skills and insufficient job skills,” according to a report on the company’s website.

According to Horizon Advisory, several solar companies also have ties to the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, which has been penalized by the Trump administration. In its 2018 financial report, Daqo New Energy said its Xinjiang facilities benefited from a lower cost of electricity because the regional grid is operated by a division of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.

Amy Lehr, the director of the Human Rights Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that work programs that draw on Xinjiang minorities and offer companies subsidies for employing them are a “red flag” for forced labor.These programs may restrict workers from quitting, traveling or participating in religious services, pay less than minimum wage, and involve harsh or unsafe work conditions, as well as the threat of detention, according to Ms. Lehr’s research.

“The concern is that there is a potential for coercion, because of the level of surveillance and fearfulness,” Ms. Lehr said. Companies that source products from the region have “no way of knowing that you’re not being connected to forced labor,” she said.

Nathan Picarsic, a founder of Horizon Advisory, said what the firm had documented was likely “just the tip of the iceberg.” If Americans are buying solar panels made with materials from these Chinese companies, he said, “I would say you are complicit in perpetuating this Chinese industrial policy that suppresses and disenfranchises human beings.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/08/business/economy/china-solar-companies-forced-labor-xinjiang.html

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