A research by the UK’s Sheffield Hallam University has found that almost half of the raw materials used in the global production of solar panels are using forced labour from China’s Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province.
Xinjiang produces about 45% of the world’s supply of the key component in the production of solar panels, polysilicon, which is extracted from mined quartz.
The report says the world’s four biggest manufacturers use materials tainted by a massive system of coercion, a claim denied by the Chinese authorities.
While solar panels are in huge demand because of climate change, the report urges top panel makers to source the component elsewhere
The report has found that all polysilicon manufacturers in the Uyghur Region have reported their participation in labour transfer programmes and/or are supplied by raw materials companies that have.
“The [Chinese] government claims that these programmes are in accordance with PRC [the People’s Republic of China]law and that workers are engaged voluntarily, in a concerted government-supported effort to alleviate poverty,” the report says.
“However, significant evidence – largely drawn from government and corporate sources – reveals 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.”
China is facing mounting criticism from around the world over its treatment of the mostly Muslim Uyghur population in the north-western Xinjiang autonomous region.
Human rights groups believe China has detained more than a million Uyghurs over the past few years in what the state defines as “re-education camps”.
There is evidence of Uyghurs being used as forced labour and of women being forcibly sterilised.
The US is among several countries to have accused China of committing genocide and crimes against humanity through its repression of the Uyghurs.
China denies such allegations, saying it has been combatting separatism and Islamist militancy in the region. (Source: BBC)