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USA bars imports of Chinese polysilicon due to human rights violations

Made-in-Xinjiang feedstock for solar panels and semiconductors is under scrutiny

The USA'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 grounds they were made in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, where it is alleged Muslim-minority Uyghur population undertake forced labor.

A White House statement attributed the actions to the united front against forced labor expressed at the recent G7 summit. The White House stated that bans force Beijing to play fairer, but also are important for competing American businesses that do not exploit workers.

The ban named one company - Xinjiang-based Hoshine Silicon Industry Co., Ltd and its subsidiaries. All US ports of entry were instructed to detain shipments made by or derived from Hoshine silica.

Hoshine and four other Xinjiang companies were also newly added to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security Entity list for “participating in the practice of, accepting, or utilizing forced labor in Xinjiang and contributing to human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other minority groups in Xinjiang.”

The four companies are Xinjiang Daqo New Energy; Xinjiang East Hope Nonferrous Metals; Xinjiang GCL New Energy Material Technology, and XPCC.

The five BANNED companies join 48 Chinese entities already on the black list for human rights abuses in the region.

As an additional action, polysilicon from China was added to the Department of Labor’s “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.” The list is updated every two years, but an exception was made to update it early, which the White House said highlights its strong response to and severity of the ongoing abuses.

Hoshine is a major supplier of metallurgical silicon, a material used to make polysilicon for solar panels and semiconductors.

According to a report from Sheffield Hallam University, 95 percent of solar modules rely on polysilicon as their primary material and polysilicon manufacturers in the Uyghur Region account for approximately 45% of the world’s solar-grade polysilicon supply. The report also found all Uyghur Region polysilicon manufacturers participate in controversial labour transfer programs or are supplied with raw materials by companies that are participants in the scheme.

The restrictions have drawn criticism from activists for not being fully inclusive of all those committing human rights violations in the region. However, the Biden administration has committed to fostering renewable energy in the US and some believe a broader ban could stifle those plans.

Beijing has promised to take “all necessary measures” to protect Chinese companies rights and interests. Hoshine has said the company does not export silicon directly to the US and therefore will not be heavily impacted. ®

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