You know before i went to xinjiang, i was in my head. I was saying things like well, you know it’s, probably uh exaggerated somewhat, but it was actually a little bit more. Those are two of the cars that have been following us for at least a couple of hours now column and james are reporters for bloomberg. News: they’ve traveled to xinjiang, china, a region at the very heart of the country’s solar ambitions, and what government critics say is the center of a crackdown on uyghurs and other minorities. Factories like this one churn out vast quantities of polysilicon the raw material in billions of solar panels all over the world, solar panels and modules, and nearly all solar panels are made out of polysilicon. Essentially almost any crystalline. Silicon module is likely to have a small amount or more of xinjiang silicon in it very few are actually pure chinese companies dominate the solar industry and collectively control at least 60 percent of global capacity at every step in the supply chain. In xinjiang alone, these four factories, dacho new energy, shinta energy, east hope, group and gcl poly energy are expected to produce nearly half the global polysilicon supply. In total, china is expected to produce over 80 percent of the world’s polysilicon. The region attracts this industry, mainly, i would say, because of electricity. Xinjiang has a lot of relatively cheap coal. Polysilicon is made using a lot of energy, so essentially cheap electricity means cheap, polysilicon, fueled by cheap polysilicon.
Solar capacity is set to grow by about a quarter. This year, 2020 saw record installations backed by almost 150 billion dollars in investment, bringing solar panels to energy farms and homes around the world. The problem is that this industrial boom is reliant on china’s troubled xinjiang region and almost no one outside china knows what goes on inside the polysilicon factories and consumers. Companies and governments are growing uneasy about their reliance on the region rife with alleged human rights abuses. Shinto energy, east hope, group and gcl poly energy holdings have been linked to a state run employment program that, according to some foreign governments and academics, may at times amount to forced labor. We welcome more foreign nationals to visit and see with their own eyes the achievements made there. We also call our media outlets that are committed to objective and unbiased reporting, as well as professional ethics, to tell the true story through their paper pen, camera and a microphone which will expose the rumors and the lies about xinjiang. We visited uh four of the polysilicon plants over a period of two to three days: Music. I’M. Getting the same ring tone seems to be anyway so we’re just leaving the factory, and we have been in touch with them many times uh to try to set up an interview uh, the company has uh repeatedly said no or are delayed on our requests and, most Recently said that uh, the topic was very sensitive, so we came here today to see for ourselves and try to see if that would make a difference.
But the end result was that we were not able to conduct an interview. We’Re told, on the one hand, come visit, you know we want journalists to come, but the reality is just so starkly different. The main place that we we encountered workers was at shinta. We just happened on the scene just around the time when they were changing shift and a small group, two or three of those people stopped to to listen to to what i had to say at which point they they went almost on script and said: oh, we Cannot speak to uh reporters? You have to speak to the company we’re not allowed to speak on behalf of the company. They obviously had been well trained by the company to respond to this situation. Should somebody from the outside, whether it be a journalist or a diplomat, ask them questions about what’s what’s going on in the factory we in the end, didn’t make it into any of the polysilicon factories to see the facilities inside and we didn’t get to meet any Of the executives and only spotted a few workers, the strictly enforced secrecy in xinjiang has made the search for answers about links between china’s labour programme and its solar industry. A problem for outside researchers who it turns out can find telling details just by combing through public records. So this document is from the tbea website. Tbea is the parent company of shinto energy. What it says is something that’s, so unprecedented i’ve never seen this uh.
The company not only accepts labor transfers of of uyghur workers from the government. The company actually has a poverty alleviation. Cadre a card was a government official poverty alleviation government officials in xinjiang. Do it says, literally in the text the cadre enters households talks face to face with the poor, spreads the party’s policies and then it says literally prescribes the right medicine, meaning implements targeted poverty alleviation according to the actual situation of the household and as a result, the Thinking of the villagers has been greatly changed. This is adrian zenz, a researcher who recently uncovered unreported documents because of his work. Zen’S has been a focus of china’s wrath, so this the gcl energy company, says, as of the end of 2019, the company accepted 121 ethnic minority workers from poor regions in southern china. So what you’re seeing here is something that’s very common. You basically have a government farewell ceremony for trained ethnic minority laborers, you see them lining up and then they go off to their respective companies. You see there’s a high focus on uniformity, but the most important always is the text. So you have the transfer of surplus laborers and then you have the whole context. You know and it’s a center of ceremony to these companies. One of the companies named here is, is the one that produces polysilicon east hope, says their initiatives, train workers and send them to factories as part of an effort to help poor ethnic minorities find better employment means the issue here.
Critics say is that there’s a lack of choice and that when ethic minorities, including the uyghurs, are approached and encouraged to participate in such poverty alleviation programs, they’re not really left with much room to say no attempting to say no to a forced labor program. For example, might land someone right back in a camp or in some other kind of carceral setting when consumers general public hear about what’s happening to the uyghurs? The general reaction may have been oh that’s, another human rights problem or it’s china, it’s too remote or it’s. Another muslim group maybe causing trouble, but this is not about the uyghurs anymore. This is about us consumers or free people. The market for solar power has surged as governments and companies around the world race to stop global warming. That means millions of homeowners buying solar panels everywhere, face an awful trade off embrace the green future and you’re, possibly purchasing the products of forced labor there’s little evidence that forced labor is involved in polysilicon manufacturing. That said, any company that’s active in shenzhen is cooperating with the regime there, so it’s impossible to have a clear conscience. In march the us, the european union and canada put new sanctions on china over alleged human rights abuses. The u.s has already banned imports of cotton and tomatoes. The substance needed for solar panels could be next.