BEIJING — China’s government on Friday slammed US tariffs on solar panel materials manufactured using forced labor as an attack on the country’s growth, promising to safeguard Chinese firms but offering no details on possible retribution.
The US Customs and Border Protection agency said on Thursday that it will halt imports of polysilicon from Hoshino Silicon Industry Co., which may be using forced labor as part of a Beijing campaign against ethnic minorities in the northwest’s Xinjiang province. Imports of raw materials and components for solar panels from six additional Chinese vendors would be banned as well.
Washington is using “human rights as a ruse” to “block Xinjiang’s economic growth,” according to the report “Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, stated as much.
“The United States is unconcerned about the people of Xinjiang, “Zhao expressed his thoughts. “Their true plans and evil intents are to destabilize Xinjiang in order to restrict China.”
Chinese officials deny charges of forced labor and other human rights violations in Xinjiang’s mostly Muslim communities. They claim that up to 1 million individuals are kept in detention camps for job training and to fight extremism.
The United States’ move might stymie President Joe Biden’s plans to encourage solar energy. Hoshino is a major global provider of polysilicon, a substance used in the production of solar panels.
Zhao stated that Beijing will take “all necessary steps” to defend its businesses, but did not elaborate. Similar remarks have been made by Chinese officials in reaction to previous US trade restrictions, but no formal action has been taken.
An examination by the United States Customs Service discovered evidence that employees in the Xinjiang polysilicon sector were harassed and threatened, and that their movement was limited.
According to the US government, direct imports from Hoshino into the US were roughly $6 million in the last two and a half years, while completed items using material from the firm totaled nearly $150 million.