China blasts US over trade restrictions on Xinjiang firms

China on Friday hit out at a “bandit-like” US government after Washington banned imports of solar panel materials from a Chinese company and placed trade restrictions on four others for alleged use of forced labour in Xinjiang.

The White House said in a statement Thursday that the use of forced labour was part of Beijing’s systematic effort to repress millions of ethnic Uyghurs and other minorities in the far-west region.

Washington said that Hoshine Silicon Industry would not be able to sell its products in the United States due to “reasonable indications” of forced labour in its manufacturing process.

The Commerce Department also announced that Hoshine and four other Xinjiang firms would be subject to tight restrictions on their ability to acquire US commodities, software and technology.

“The United States believes that state-sponsored forced labour in Xinjiang is both an affront to human dignity and an example of the PRC’s unfair economic practices,” the White House said.

China lashed out at the order, calling it a “bandit-like act no different from pillaging other people’s property” that creates “forced poverty and forced unemployment” among Xinjiang’s people.

“The US uses human rights as a pretence… to unscrupulously oppress the industrial development of Xinjiang,” said foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian at a routine briefing Friday.

Zhao said the United States “politicises normal economic and trade cooperation” and “wantonly oppresses Chinese companies… to hold back China’s development”.

The Xinjiang region supplies close to half of the world’s polysilicon used in solar panels.

The four other companies include two producers of polysilicon materials — Daqo New Energy and Xinjiang GCL New Energy Material Technology — plus aluminium processor Xinjiang East Hope Nonferrous Metals and state-owned Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, already sanctioned for alleged forced labour in cotton processing.

An official from US Customs and Border Protection, which issued the block on Hoshine imports, estimated that the United States imported goods from the company worth $150 million over the past 30 months.

Asked if the US trade actions could conflict with promoting solar energy, US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said stopping forced labour comes first.

“Our environmental goals will not be achieved on the backs of human beings in a forced labour environment,” Mayorkas told reporters.

The import ban on Hoshine follows similar action against producers and users of cotton and tomato products from the region as well as hair products such as weaves.

The United States also recently placed a ban on imports from a leading Chinese fishing company, Dalian Ocean, for its alleged use of forced labour, unrelated to Xinjiang.

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