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Xinjiang’s solar industry has launched an offensive charm as sanctions are clarified

A Xinjiang supplier to the world’s leading solar cell manufacturers has denied allegations of forced labor practices, as the U.S. thinks it could impose sanctions that jeopardize the dominance of China’s remote regions of the solar supply chain.

Daqo New Energy, one of Xinjiang’s largest polysilicon manufacturers, has launched a public relations campaign to address the allegations and organized a media tour last week involving the Financial Times. The campaign was the latest step in Beijing’s propaganda efforts to address human rights abuses and foreign allegations. genocide in the region.

Over the past decade, the Xinjiang government has used subsidies, preferential tax policies and cheap energy to secure the global central position in the solar panel supply chain. The Northwest region produces about 45 percent of the world polysilicon, a material refined from quartz, used in most photovoltaic cells, devices that convert sunlight into electricity.

Human rights groups and foreign governments are investigating the polysilicon manufacturing in Xinjiang, thanks to a controversial scheme to transfer workers who are supposedly benefiting the industry. forced labor.

On the route of the plant, in a wet industrial area about 30 minutes from the city of Shihezi, Daqo executives said there was no such thing as forced labor in their factory. The directors added that they wanted to protect this claim with an independent third-party audit.

These efforts, however, are unlikely to be facilitated foreign pressure, analysts said. Even if individual producers like Daqo are cleaned up by inspectors, the role of the region in all phases of the integrated solar power supply chain would make every effort by any company with Xinjiang operations to avoid international scrutiny.

They have accused the Chinese Communist Party arbitrary internalization More than 1m Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Uzbeks and mostly Muslims in the region. Many of the detainees are taken to factory jobs. Human rights groups have complained that the practice is violated because workers often have no choice but to take office.

The days following Daqor’s tour, a report She used official company documents published by the Helena Kennedy Center for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University and Chinese state media reports to show in the most detailed detail so far the many links to work programs across Xinjiang’s solar energy industry, including Daqo suppliers. and customers.

A worker rides a bicycle in front of the storage tank and distillation towers at the Daqo New Energy plant

Daqo is one of four companies operating in Xinjiang’s polysilicon factories © Qilai Shen / Bloomberg

Workers use machinery to collect polysilicon rods at the Daqo New Energy plant

Workers use machinery to collect polysilicon rods from chemical vapor deposition chambers © Qilai Shen / Bloomberg

“[Module] manufacturers who want to prevent the production of goods that may be contaminated by forced labor will have to carefully examine their supply chains until they reach raw quartz to see if they are produced with forced labor, ”the report’s authors wrote.

Michael McCaul, a senior Republican on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the FT that more and more evidence needs to put more pressure on President Joe Biden to act.

“The report provides evidence of slave labor in the solar panel supply chain,” McCaul said. “John Kerry admitted that the solar panel supply chain is tainted by slave labor in China. How much more evidence does the world – and the Biden administration – need before it can finally act?”

Kerry, Biden’s international climate negotiator, said last week that he was evaluating whether the state department China’s solar industry it should be the “purpose of punishment.” It was the first time the road administration had raised the possibility of taking action.

Parliament of the United Kingdom voted unanimously to indicate that China’s treatment of Uyghurs last month is “genocide,” following the similar designations by the Canadian and Dutch parliaments and the U.S. State Department.

Asked about the report, John Smirnow, vice president of market strategy for the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association, said it has shown that “the risk to all companies in the solar supply chain associated with forced labor is very high.”

The staff works in the central control room of the Daqo New Energy plant

Staff work in the central control room of the Daqo plant © Qilai Shen / Bloomberg

Workers work on polysilicon rod harvesting machinery at Daqo New Energy plant from chemical vapor chambers

The company said it had a non-discriminatory hiring policy and employed more than 2,000 employees, none of whom were Uighurs © Qilai Shen / Bloomberg

In Shihezi, a city 150 km west of Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, Yang Ming, Daqo’s chief financial officer, told FT he hoped the guided tour would help “clarify this misunderstanding” about forced labor.

Daqo, Yang said, wanted to “prove that this is not the case in our company”.

During a tour of the refinery, Daqo stressed that the process of converting silicon metal powder into high-purity polysilicon is a highly technical and automated process.

Aside from the 40 or so employees sitting in front of a computer center’s computer screens, only a few workers were seen in the expanded chemicals plant. To minimize the risk of contamination by human contact in the final stages of the process, journalists were asked to wear hazmat suits, hair nets and plastic shoe covers.

The company said it had a non-discriminatory hiring policy and employed more than 2,000 employees, none of whom were Uighur.

Yang added that Daqo has received written assurance from its suppliers and customers that they do not use forced labor.

Daqo’s efforts are unlikely convince US buyers the Chinese solar modules, which are without forced labor in the vast supply chains of Xinjiang.

Daqo is in a unique position compared to other polysilicon producers in the region, thanks to the New York list. “A clean health bill in a single facility is not a positive score for the entire supply chain,” said Nathan Picarsic, founder of Horizon Advisory, a U.S. consultancy that has investigated forced labor in Xinjiang.

Xinjiang Hoshine Silicon Industry, one of Daqo’s suppliers and the region’s largest solar-producing silicon producer, has received thousands of transfer program workers near Turpan, a city 150 km southeast of Urumqi, at its facilities, according to a Chinese state media outlet. Article cited in the Sheffield Hallam report.

Concerning whether Hoshine’s factories are close enough to detention facilities and participation in state work schemes is enough, said Laura Murphy, a professor of human rights and contemporary slavery at Sheffield Hallam University and one of the report’s authors.

Poverty alleviation transfer programs are inherently problematic because “people who are not involved in poverty alleviation occur in an environment that is believed to be separatist and radical.[and]they are sent to “re-education” camps, ”he added.


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