U.S. Customs and Border Patrol on Thursday banned imports of silica products widely used in solar panels, but also useful for other silicon wafers, on the grounds that they were made in the province Chinese Xinjiang, where it is alleged that the Muslim minority Uyghur population forced the workforce.
A White House declaration attributed the actions to the united front against forced labor expressed at the recent G7 summit. The White House said the bans force Beijing to play fairer, but are also important for competing U.S. companies that don’t exploit workers.
The ban named one company – Hoshine Silicon Industry Co., Ltd., based in Xinjiang, and its subsidiaries. All US ports of entry have been ordered to detain shipments made by or derived from Hoshine silica.
Hoshine and four other companies in Xinjiang were also recently added to the list of entities of the Bureau of Industry and Security of the Ministry of Commerce for “participating in the practice of, accepting or using forced labor in Xinjiang and contributing to human rights violations against Uyghurs and other minority groups. in Xinjiang.
The four companies are Xinjiang Daqo New Energy; Xinjiang East Hope non-ferrous metals; Xinjiang GCL New Energy Material Technology and XPCC.
The five BANNED companies join 48 Chinese entities already on the blacklist for human rights violations in the region.
As an additional action, Polycrystalline Silicon from China has been added to the “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor” of the Ministry of Labor. The list is updated every two years, but an exception has been made to update it early, which the White House says highlights its strong response and the seriousness of the ongoing abuses.
Hoshine is a leading supplier of metallurgical silicon, a material used to make polysilicon for solar panels and semiconductors.
According to a report from Sheffield Hallam University, 95% of solar modules use polysilicon as the main material, and polysilicon manufacturers in the Uyghur region account for around 45% of the global supply of solar-grade polysilicon. The report also found that all polysilicon manufacturers in the Uyghur region participate in controversial labor transfer programs or are sourced with raw materials from companies participating in the program.
The restrictions have drawn criticism from activists for not fully including all those who commit human rights violations in the region. However, the Biden administration has pledged to promote renewable energy in the United States and some believe a broader ban could stifle these plans.
Beijing has promised to take “all necessary measures” to protect the rights and interests of Chinese companies. Hoshine said the company does not export silicon directly to the United States and therefore would not be badly affected. ®