Hudson Institute: Uyghur forced labor in solar supply chain
A March 9 Hudson Institute talk has drawn renewed attention to the role of Uyghur forced labor in the Chinese-dominated supply chain for solar panels and related technologies.
Nury Turkel, a Hudson Institute senior fellow and Uyghur-American human rights activist, spoke with Laura Murphy, a professor of human rights and contemporary slavery at the United Kingdom’s Sheffield Hallam University.
Murphy coauthored a 2021 report, “In Broad Daylight,” that has shed more light on the solar energy industry’s great vulnerability to forced labor.
The report explained that China’s polysilicon industry shifted to Xinjiang roughly five years ago, lured in part by cheap coal energy but also financial and tax incentives, including subsidies for the use of coerced “surplus laborers” belonging to the Uyghur ethnicity.
“All polysilicon manufacturers in the Uyghur Region have reported their participation in [labor] transfer [programs] and/or are supplied by raw materials companies that have,” states a summary of the report.
“We must examine what corporations implicated in China’s forced labor practices can do to extract themselves from the complicity in this human rights crisis,” Turkel said in his introduction to the conversation, which came two days after a watchdog report alleged that multiple Amazon suppliers rely on forced labor from Uyghurs.
He lauded the newly enacted Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, a bipartisan bill that outlaws goods obtained from the Xinjiang region.
“This is an unprecedented system of forced labor that I don’t think we’ve ever seen before in the world, and that we’re just learning how to address,” Murphy said. “The only way to do a responsible thing as a corporation today is to pull out entirely from that region.”
“White, powerful CEOs identify with white people—and that’s a problem. But the other problem is that the Chinese government has essentially captured the market on so many of the goods we consume around the world,” she replied. “They’ve been really cowards—absolute cowards.”
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