Are solar panels built by slaves in China? Evidence says yes, and Republicans in Congress want answers

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By CASEY HARPER | THE CENTER SQUARE | and MUST READ ALASKA

Congressional Republicans want to know if the federal government is purchasing solar panels from China that were built using slave labor.

Lawmakers sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General raising the alarm about the issue, which has come increasingly into the spotlight as the Biden administration pushes the U.S. toward renewable energy sources, a market that China dominates. Republicans note it is illegal for the U.S. to purchase or import goods made in China by forced labor.

China dominates the global solar panel production, with 78% of the solar cells produced in 2019 made in by communist China. Production of solar modules and polysilicon production is is also dominated by China — 72% and 66%.

According to a 2021 report in the New York Times, these solar products for Americans are indeed coming from forced labor.

“In a flat, arid expanse of China’s far west Xinjiang region, a solar technology company welcomed laborers from a rural area 650 miles away, preparing to put them to work at GCL-Poly, the world’s second-largest maker of polysilicon.

“The workers, members of the region’s Uighur minority, attended a class in etiquette as they prepared for their new lives in the solar industry, which prides itself as a model of clean, responsible growth. GCL-Poly promoted the housing and training it offered its new recruits in photographs and statements to the local news media,” according to the New York Times.

“But researchers and human rights experts say those positive images may conceal a more troubling reality — the persecution of one of China’s most vulnerable ethnic groups. According to a report by the consultancy Horizon Advisory, Xinjiang’s rising solar energy technology sector is connected to a broad program of assigned labor in China, including methods that fit well-documented patterns of forced labor,” the Times reported.

U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio and Republicans on the House Oversight Committee raised questions about China’s notorious human rights violations and why U.S. taxpayers would support unethical practices and enrich one of the U.S.’ greatest rivals.

“If we are not vigilant in our efforts to ensure that no solar panels or components made with slave labor are being purchased with federal dollars from FEMA or other U.S. agencies and used on similar solar projects, it is possible the United States could be directly funding the genocide and abuse occurring in China’s Xinjiang region,” the letter said.

Addressed to IG Joseph Cuffari, the letter says that almost 85% of the world’s solar components are made in China. For example, 40% of polysilicon, a necessary solar panel component, comes from the Xinjiang region, which is known for its enslavement of Uyghurs, a mostly Muslim group that has been forced into internment camps in China.

“As members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, we are writing today to express serious concern about the possibility of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funds being used to enrich China, an adversary with a record of human rights abuses and slave labor,” the letter said. “According to the U.S. Department of State, genocide and slave labor in the Xinjiang region of China are being actively perpetrated against the Uyghur minority.”

The lawmakers pointed to recently passed legislation to prevent these kinds of purchases.

“As you know, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) was signed into law in December 2021 to prevent the U.S. purchase or importation of goods made with forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China,” the letter said. “We strongly support the UFLPA but remain troubled the United States may still possibly be using taxpayer dollars to purchase products manufactured using slave labor in direct violation of the UFLPA…”

The lawmaker’s letter directly asks the IG to investigate. They also point to federal funds spent by the Federal Emergency Management Agency on power grids.

“Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, the federal government committed nearly $8 billion to assist with disaster relief in the [U.S. Virgin Islands], with almost $5 billion of those dollars coming from FEMA,” the letter said. “A large sum of the disaster relief funds was allocated to bolster and rebuild the USVI’s energy grid, making it more reliable and resistant to future storms. Additionally, the USVI announced in 2021 that a new 28-megawatt solar micro-grid project on St. Croix was awarded $4.4 million from FEMA for the initial phase of construction while USVI officials expect FEMA to fund the bulk of the remaining $129 million project cost.”

The federal government increasingly using taxpayer dollars to fund solar panel research and production in the name of fending off climate change, but that investment has come with geopolitical implications.

“Major solar companies including GCL-Poly, East Hope Group, Daqo New Energy, Xinte Energy and Jinko Solar are named in the report as bearing signs of using some forced labor, according to Horizon Advisory, which specializes in Chinese-language research. Though many details remain unclear, those signs include accepting workers transferred with the help of the Chinese government from certain parts of Xinjiang, and having laborers undergo ‘military-style’ training that may be aimed at instilling loyalty to China and the Communist Party,” the New York Times reported.

“This territory-wide transition to solar power will potentially serve to massively enrich China,” the Republican congressional representatives said in their letter.

18 COMMENTS

  1. The left doesn’t care. In fairness, neither does the GOP. Progressives could care less what their faux religion does to the 3rd world as long as they can feel good about themselves.

    The GOP is so determined to curry favor with big business they’ll happily look the other way as long as the right people get paid. Just ask Mitch McConnell

  2. All while they all love puking the word COEXIST… Liberal Left insanity. The left is ok using slave labor, because they don’t give a crap about anything but their agenda.
    A worthless bunch for sure. Every. Single. One. Of. Them.

    • Did you ever notice that COEXIST is always asking everyone else to get along with the left. There is never any attempts on the part of the left to get along with others.

  3. The same goes on with LeBron’s basketball shoes. Nike is very woke and also loves the cheap Chinese labor, and all the cheap labor in SE Asia. One also has to wonder about the quality of such a product built under fear and coercion. Yet, the Democrats in charge will make it mandatory to buy them and Paul Pelosi will make some very luck stock picks on these companies (when he’s not chugging the family wine and cruising his Porsche).

    • Here is an interesting site to see who is purchasing which energy companies’ stocks or what specific trades a politician is making: ‘https://www.smartinsider.com/politicians/

  4. As a solar professional for 40 years, and a left-leaning liberal, please allow me to correct the record.
    It bothers me immensely that China uses forced labor for any manufacturing.
    It also bothers me that the US allowed US solar panel manufacturers, who had been bolstered and supported by US research funding for decades, to quietly slip out of the country. We lost our manufacturing edge because China invested billions of yuan into their manufacturing capbilities, and significantly undercut US domestic manufacturing. It’s the same thing they’ve been doing for 20 years in numerous industries.
    If we want the US to be the world leader in these technologies, we need to incentivize companies to invest in US factories, with accountability for any federally funded corporations.

    • Tom, good point but I might also suggest the below.

      Install a tariff against Chi-Com Goods that reflects the following.
      Add the cost of Environmental Regulations, we as a people value clean air, clean water and responsible disposal of toxic waste, China could care less and the cost of their goods reflects that.
      Add the cost of Worker Health and Safety, ( this is a no Brainer, see the point above )
      Doing so will insure the cost of goods reflect the real burden of US Manufacture.

      Secondly investigate how deeply entrenched the Chi-Com Party is in it’s ability to influence Government officials, Education, (Confucius Institute), Trade Policy and Border Security, ( just where is all of that Fentanyl made anyway?)

  5. I really don’t care. The only thing I wish had been done is the Japanese who treated the Chinese so miserably during world war II would be those slaves.

    People have a short memory or no memory at all of what they did. For instance, the Japanese would March into a village and rape all the women several times, and then gather up all the kids and chop their head off and shove it down on a sharpened steak and then line the streets with all these kids heads. There’s no wonder that the Koreans the Chinese and most of Asia despise the Japanese. Making our own pows right in the hull of that ship that had previously hauled horses and horse excrement was 3 ft deep in it. Our guys got to the destination with ulcers and sores all over their skin. So I don’t really care what any of those people do over there.

    I do care that someone in our government made coin over buying cheap Chinese f-35 parts and sticking them in our fighter jets. But that’s being resolved. Every time we buy a Smithfield ham we’re buying a Chinese ham. Until we’re ready to give up a few things because of convenience and price, we’re just as guilty as they are for enabling it. Are you listening Kathy Lee Gifford? Having all those kids make your clothes for pennies a day?

    • Lotta horse puckey in your yarns Greg that isn’t applicable to anything here described. First of all, history is history , no denying that or the fact that the Japanese invaders during and before WW2 were blindly atrocious in their treatment of other nations people and captured soldiers. However today they are one of our staunchest Allie’s in Asia and that’s primarily against the Chinese and North Koreans, the other highly abusive nation. So readjust your thinking to 2022 from 1937!, Next thing to know is that Mao killed many millions more people ( mostly his own) than the Japanese ever did and are now using all manner of deceit and false pretenses to undermine and control sovereign nations , just with more subtlety than the Japanese did!,. And lastly, Smithfield hams and cheap solar panels are readily available in Costco and many Americans buy and use their products regularly without a second thought. How about you? Welcome to the world of international trade and dependence!!

      • Spoken like a true globalist. Japan is our ally because we beat them and rebuilt them in our image. They don’t contribute to any real anti China cause other than stand way behind us. Like I said, as long as America keeps enabling China, I DON’T CARE

  6. Sloan keeps talking out of the side of his mouth. He’s against slavery in China but yet he still likes to buy all the cheap stuff at Costco that comes from China. Hypocrites can’t have it both ways. We either have to stop doing business with China or quit bitching about what they do.

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