BEIJING – The Chinese government on Friday criticized US restrictions on imports of solar panel materials that could be made with forced labor as an attack on its development and said Beijing will protect Chinese companies, but gave no details on possible reprisals.
The U.S. customs agency said Thursday it will block polysilicon imports from Hoshine Silicon Industry Co., which may use forced labor as part of Beijing’s campaign against ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region, in the North-west. Imports from six other Chinese suppliers of raw materials and components for solar panels are also to be restricted.
Washington is using “human rights as a disguise” to “suppress industrial development in Xinjiang,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.
“The United States doesn’t care about the people of Xinjiang at all,” Zhao said. “Their real plots and sinister intentions are to mess up Xinjiang to contain China.”
Chinese authorities dismiss charges of forced labor and other abuses against predominantly Muslim groups in Xinjiang. They say the detention camps in which up to 1 million people are held are intended for vocational training and the fight against radicalism.
The US move is a potential obstacle to President Joe Biden’s ambition to promote solar energy. Hoshine is one of the world’s largest suppliers of polysilicon, a material used to make solar panels.
Zhao said Beijing “will take all necessary measures” to protect its businesses, but gave no details. Chinese spokespersons have made similar comments in response to previous US trade sanctions, usually followed by no official action.
The U.S. customs agency said an investigation found evidence that workers in Xinjiang’s polysilicon industry were intimidated and threatened and their movement restricted.
Hoshine’s direct imports to the United States over the past two and a half years have totaled around $ 6 million, while finished products including company equipment totaled around $ 150 million, according to the government. American.