US blocks solar components from China over labor abuses

WASHINGTON (AP) — A major Chinese producer of material used to make solar panels will be barred from the U.S. market as part of a broader effort to halt commerce tied to China’s repressive campaign against Uyghurs and other minorities, the Biden administration said Thursday.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will immediately halt shipments from the Hoshine Silicon Industry Co. Ltd. and its subsidiaries under a law that bans the import of goods produced with forced labor.

In addition, the Commerce Department will add six Chinese organizations linked to the industry that produces raw materials and components of the solar industry in the Xinjiang region to a list of entities from any access to the U.S. market, the administration said in a fact sheet announcing the new restrictions.

These latest U.S. moves could make it harder for the administration to meet renewable energy goals because about 45% of the global supply of the polysilicon used to make photovoltaic cells for solar panels comes from Xinjiang.

“These actions demonstrate our commitment to imposing additional costs on the People’s Republic of China for engaging in cruel and inhumane forced labor practices and ensuring that Beijing plays by the rules of fair trade as part of the rules-based international order,” the White House said in announcing the trade actions.

It’s part of a campaign that has gained global momentum to apply economic pressure on the Chinese government over its forced assimilation of largely Muslim minorities in the far western Xinjiang region. The U.S. has already banned cotton and tomatoes from the area and both Canada and Britain have also moved to restrict imports over the issue.

The administration said the Labor Department will also update its list of goods known to be produced with forced labor to include polysilicon from China. That will put additional pressure on U.S. manufacturers to remove Chinese components from their supply chains.

China denies allegations that it uses forced labor in Xinjiang or elsewhere and has broadly rejected the consistent and well-documented reports that Uyghurs and other minorities have been detained under brutal conditions, subjected to indoctrination and intensive surveillance intended to force them to assimilate into the dominant Han culture.