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Are solar panels in China made using slave labour?

The Sheffield Hallam report details the ways forced labour in the Uyghur Region pervade an entire supply chain and “reach deep into international markets”.

It concludes that the solar industry is particularly vulnerable to forced labour because 95% of solar modules rely on one primary material – solar-grade polysilicon.

Polysilicon manufacturers in the Uyghur Region account for approximately 45% of the world’s solar-grade polysilicon supply.

Researchers identified 11 companies engaged in forced labour transfers, four additional companies located within industrial parks that have accepted labour transfers, and 90 Chinese and international companies whose supply chains are affected.

An official Chinese government report published in November 2020 documents the “placement” of 2.6 million minoritised citizens in jobs in farms and factories within the Uyghur Region and across the country through these state-sponsored “surplus labour” and “labour transfer” initiatives.

Beijing claims that these programmes are in accordance with Chinese law and that workers are engaged voluntarily, in a concerted government-supported effort to alleviate poverty.

However, the Sheffield Hallam University report states there is significant evidence – largely drawn from Chinese government and corporate sources – revealing that labour transfers are deployed in the Uyghur Region within an “environment of unprecedented coercion, undergirded by the constant threat of re-education and internment”.

It adds: “Many indigenous workers are unable to refuse or walk away from these jobs, and thus the programmes are tantamount to forcible transfer of populations and enslavement.”

Rahima Senba, who escaped this forced labour regime explicitly described it as “slavery” in an interview with the Globe and Mail.

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