U.S. Ban on Chinese Solar Panels Produced by Uyghur Forced Labour

USCIRF logoWashington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) applauded the Biden administration’s whole-of-government approach evident in the banning of solar panels produced by the forced labour of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China.

“We want to thank the Biden administration for taking these concrete steps to hold all who engage in forced labour of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims accountable. This inter-agency effort sends another unequivocal message that the United States does not tolerate these inhumane and unfair practices,” USCIRF Vice Chair Nury Turkel stated. “No business—whether it is a China-based or U.S.-based company—should turn a blind eye to this abuse. Companies should conduct their due diligence to verify beyond a reasonable doubt that their supply chains in China are free of forced labor, including in the solar panel industry.”

On June 24, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a Withhold Release Order (WRO) on silica-based products made by Hoshine Silicon Industry Co., Ltd., a company located in Xinjiang, that use forced labour to manufacture. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security also updated its Entity List to include Hoshine Silicon Industry and four other companies for participating in the practice of, accepting, or utilising forced labour and contributing to human rights abuses in Xinjiang. In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor published a Federal Register Notice updating its “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor” to include polysilicon produced with forced labor. The report currently includes other products from China that have links to forced labour in Xinjiang or by Uyghur workers transferred to other parts of China, including cotton, garments, footwear, electronics, gloves, hair products, textiles, thread/yarn, and tomato products.

Since 2017, the Chinese government has detained millions of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in internment camps across the Xinjiang region. Chinese authorities have subjected them to forced labour in these camps, as well as in prisons, factories, and industrial parks. U.S. companies with supply chains in China for consumer goods—particularly those in the apparel, footwear, and other related industries—are complicit in Uyghur forced labour and therefore must take steps to urgently address this growing problem. This issue has become especially pressing following the U.S. Department of State’s determination in January 2021 that the atrocities in Xinjiang constitute genocide and crimes against humanity.

“USCIRF will continue to work unflinchingly with the Biden administration to hold the Chinese government accountable for its atrocious religious freedom violations,” USCIRF Commissioner James W. Carr added. “We urge the U.S. government to enforce existing laws, such as the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, and to impose targeted sanctions on Chinese government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom. USCIRF also encourages Congress to support and pass legislation that promotes religious freedom in China, including the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.”

On March 10, USCIRF hosted a hearing addressing the complicity of U.S. companies in Uyghur forced labour in China. USCIRF has also discussed the Uyghur Genocide in several episodes of its USCIRF Spotlight Podcast. In its 2021 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended China for designation as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) for engaging in or tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom. 

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyse, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at media@uscirf.gov.