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Fears over China’s Muslim forced labour loom over EU solar power

February 14, 2021

By Paul Homewood


h/t Robin Guenier


 I have covered this issue recently, but now it appears the EU is finally waking up as well as the US:



Nearly every solar power panel sold in the European Union has its origins in China’s oppressed Xinjiang region.

The solar industry and Brussels lawmakers argue Europe’s renewable energy push should not come at a human cost amid long-standing international concern over reports China has detained 1 million people with Muslim backgrounds in camps in Xinjiang and is putting them to work.

“Everybody knows what’s going on in China, and when facilities are based there you have to accept that there’s a high possibility that forced labor will be used,” said Milan Nitzschke, president of EU ProSun, an alliance of solar businesses seeking to promote sustainable, solar manufacturing based in the EU.

While the U.S. has already rolled out sanctions against products such as cotton and tomatoes originating from Xinjiang, the European Commission has avoided confronting China with any trade measures.

It has fallen to lawmakers in the European Parliament to try to push Brussels to implement trade bans, on all industries including solar panels, if companies are implicated in human rights abuses.

“Import bans need to complement as a last resort if forced labor is involved in the production, like in Xinjiang," said Green MEP Anna Cavazzini.

Suspicions about every panel

For the past decade Beijing has been carrying out a campaign to detain and “reeducate” the Muslim-majority population of the Xinjiang region.

Human rights groups have alerted that state-run reeducation centers double as forced labor camps, with detained people obliged to work in low-skilled, labor-intensive sectors such as cotton picking. But recent reports out of the region suggest the Xinjiang government has also been focusing on “upskilling” the workforce and putting them to work in more specialized sectors.

That’s of particular concern to the global solar industry given Xinjiang’s outsized role in the production of polysilicon, a material used to make photovoltaic (PV) cells.

“Nearly every silicon-based solar module — at least 95 percent of the market — is likely to have some Xinjiang silicon in,” said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at BloombergNEF.

Industry analyst Johannes Bernreuter added that last year roughly 45 percent of the global supply of solar-grade polysilicon came from the region.

Raw polysilicon is transported to factories — usually outside Xinjiang — and melted into cylinders, known as ingots. Because it’s blended with polysilicon produced in other regions, it’s difficult to trace material that could potentially come from forced labor camps in Xinjiang, Chase and Bernreuter said.

For any single solar panel “the mathematical probability is relatively high" it has some material produced in the province, said Bernreuter.

An open secret

Beijing insists the camps — which it calls “vocational training facilities” — are simply “helping people of all ethnic groups secure stable employment” and argues that this is “entirely different from forced labor.”

The China Photovoltaic Industry Association said accusations of forced labor in Xinjiang were ”the lie of the century fabricated by several institutions and people from Western countries.”

In Europe, industry players said the potential use of forced labor to produce material included in solar panels imported into the EU was an open secret.



Naturally, potential solar panel manufacturers in Europe would like to see punitive tariffs, but this would drastically impact on costs, destroying the idea that solar power is competitive.

My guess is that, despite protests from MEPs, little will change, and a blind eye will be turned just as with the new Russian gas pipeline to Germany. And all for what? Solar power in the EU only accounts for 1.8% of primary energy consumption.


Chinese companies dominate global production of solar panels:




And even competitors like Canadian Solar rely on plants in Asia and Latin America for their manufacturing. And Panasonic have just pulled out of solar panel manufacturing completely, shutting its Malaysian plant as it is unable to compete with Chinese factories:



Meanwhile the suffering of the Uighurs will continue.

  1. Gamecock permalink
    February 14, 2021 1:29 pm

    If you take away their industry, will the Chinese not just kill them?

    Life imitating art.

    “If you don’t buy this magazine . . . .”

  2. Broadlands permalink
    February 14, 2021 2:06 pm

    “And all for what? Solar power in the EU only accounts for 1.8% of primary energy consumption.”

    More to the point, large solar panel “farms” are taking land being used for agriculture and other human needs, even land for biofuel ethanol production and to plant trees. In the end they will have to be replaced as they wear out, lose efficiency or begin to leak toxic chemicals. Buy more from the Chinese, just about to land on Mars with their technology?

  3. February 14, 2021 2:50 pm

    The world cannot run on sunshine and breezes. Windmills are inefficient and can never be carbon neutral. From Start to finish they produce more co2 than coal. Solar only works when the sun shines and needs huge amounts of land. Also difficult to recycle. There will always be a need for coal, gas and oil. The answer is nuclear and the sooner the world realises this the better off we will be.

  4. Eric Johnson permalink
    February 14, 2021 3:01 pm

    Of course nothing will change. Greed underlies it all. First have to get the masses to accept the new normal of paying more for intermittent electricity to save earth. Then get the masses to accept a VAT in 10-15 years for replacing the Chinese PV’s with EU/CA/US PV’s to save the Uyghurs.

    The Chicoms are using their material, human and land resources to undersell everything everywhere. Until there are no more competitive industries anywhere.

    A self-defeating approach as the rest of the world will be reduced to substance lifestyle after massive die offs exacerbated by devestating Chicon initiated wars reducing the world’s GDP back to 13th-15th centuries levels.

    The supposed ‘elites’ will have a short-lived time on their thrones before they too are removed, no longer needed by the Chicoms.

    One big happy “all-are-equal” world. Zero knowledge of its reality – no free/open printing, TV, travel nor internet.

    • Eric Johnson permalink
      February 14, 2021 3:03 pm

      My bad: Forgot to mention ‘education’ in the free/open list.

  5. Mike Turner permalink
    February 14, 2021 3:55 pm

    It goes on getting worse although some “woke” people are waking up at last.

    If people want to know more about co2 and warming, this site is an eye opener… volcanoes and the frequency with which they erupt, plus their scale and surrounding earthquakes. We have as much chance of stopping them as we do so called co2 induced

    It was the Sun wot did it!

    Thanks for all your great work.. the worm is beginning to turn.

    • February 14, 2021 5:44 pm

      According to peer reviewed research, volcanism (.3 gigatons CO2/year) does not contribute as much atmospheric CO2 as human activity (35 gigatons CO2/year) by two orders of magnitude. Important to get our facts right.

      I do not swallow the claim that anthropogenic CO2 is causing catastrophic climate change and I love the Homewood site and refer to it often to debunk the idiotic claims of colleagues.

      • Broadlands permalink
        February 14, 2021 8:01 pm

        “…human activity (35 gigatons CO2/year)”. And soon to be 40. And we are supposed to remove those 35,000 million tons by 2050? ~1200 million tons a year??? The asylum is quickly filling up?

  6. Cheshire Red permalink
    February 14, 2021 4:29 pm

    This just demonstrates that the civilised world should be shunning China. Forced labour to destroy global solar panel rivals, leaving China to corner the market? How are we even giving them a market? Crazy.

    A secondary point people seldom discuss is why are the Chinese doing what they are to the Uighurs? My take is they’ve seen the ‘enrichment’ the west is enjoying and have decided ‘that’s not for us’, hence they\re nixing the issue in real time, right now.

    Either way, we shouldn’t be doing business with China.

  7. February 14, 2021 4:33 pm

    Then there’s the child labour involved in cobalt mining in the DRC, needed for EV batteries.. Not a pretty picture.

  8. Robin Guenier permalink
    February 14, 2021 5:19 pm

    As someone commented last time this was raised here – forced labour = slavery.

  9. dennisambler permalink
    February 14, 2021 5:37 pm

    Sounds like someone is looking for subsidies to produce them in the EU: “Milan Nitzschke, president of EU ProSun, an alliance of solar businesses seeking to promote sustainable, solar manufacturing based in the EU.”

    It isn’t sustainable unless they get massive subsidies to compete with the Chinese. The raw material would probably still come from there. Are they really bothered about the Uighers?

    • Alan permalink
      February 15, 2021 12:42 am

      I agree, this complaint would have more force had it not been from someone with an axe to grind

  10. Dave Gardner permalink
    February 14, 2021 5:54 pm

    I vaguely remember hearing a story years ago about prisoners in the USA being involved in solar panel manufacturing. I managed to find the story:

    “One of the largest companies to manufacture solar panels in the United States uses a surprising resource to keep costs low and compete against producers from China: prison labor.

    Suniva Inc, a Georgia-based solar cell and panel maker that is backed by Goldman Sachs Group Inc, farms out a small portion of its manufacturing to federal inmates as part of a longstanding government program intended to prepare them for life after prison.”

  11. It doesn't add up... permalink
    February 14, 2021 5:55 pm

    So what does that make the cost of a non-slave labour solar panel? Nice to know that cost improvement depends on employing slave labour, and not technology. Also has intresting implications for assumed “learning rates” lowering renewables costs in future.

  12. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    February 14, 2021 7:00 pm

    “… this would drastically impact on costs, destroying the idea that solar power is competitive.”

    The “climate crisis” {CO2 caused} and the “green” scam (PanicGreen) are destroying societies, nations, wealth, and people. Oh, and principles.

  13. Steve permalink
    February 15, 2021 8:33 am
    This is an interesting paper by Prof Norman Fenton which is being moderated
    by the.main platforms. It shows major problems with government health service figures. Perhaps a look at this by moderated would be useful.

  14. Steve permalink
    February 15, 2021 8:45 am

    My bonkers amazon device altered numerate to moderated.

  15. February 15, 2021 10:48 am

    Of the many reasons for resisting solar power, the sufferings of the Uighurs is the one that has the least evidence. Your references go back to a UN report, which was actually a report to the UN, or rather a statement to the press by one of the authors of the report (the US representative) on which all the accusations of “genocide” are based.

    “Forced labour” is a good way of describing the tough choice between doing something hard (picking cotton) or starving to death – the choice facing most people since the world began. That the pro-Uighur campaigns in the press and in the Euro parliament are manipulated by Western intelligence agencies is demonstrated by the way the stories of witnesses have changed when the get taken up by certain organisations; women who formerly complained of mistreatment and poor diet start remembering scenes of mass rape etc. No doubt Chinese treatment of a minority which has harboured terrorists is harsh and unacceptable. Not quite in the same league as the behaviour of our governments in the Middle East though is it? Anyone up for boycotting oil from our protectorates in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, or the countries we’ve trashed like Libya, Iraq, and Syria?

    • February 15, 2021 8:59 pm

      More than a little “artistic licence” in there Geoff.
      The countries you quote were failed states before “we” went anywhere near them, regardless of the misguided nature or Western involvement in them recently.
      The main focus here is the total hypochracy of the pious and ever so enlightened born again liberalosphere. That safe and till now secure 2 demensional Western world with nothing to fear from the third dimension so we lower and lower the bar until new neuroses can be identified and worried about. If they do not see it happening then it is ignored or even worse “all done in a good cause” displaying an at best juvinille level of understanding of “cause and effect” .
      We support politicians who cannot balance a budget, have no money to protect the old and infirm or protect our borders, but they can thow away money to “fight climate change”.

    • February 15, 2021 9:02 pm

      By the way…. there is also oil in Libya, Iraq and Syria….and a second by the way, Mid Eastern Oil in general is poor quality, waxy and low grade (API)

      • February 15, 2021 10:43 pm

        Of course there’s oil in Libya, Iraq and Syria. That was my point. Waxy and low grade it may be, but it was good enough for Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden to kill hundreds of thousands over.

        This article is accusing EU solar power proponents of hypocrisy because they import panels from a country they accuse of using forced labour. I’ve no argument with that argument, except that it’s a bit convoluted.

        My only argument is with the final sentence: “Meanwhile the suffering of the Uighurs will continue.” It might be more accurate to say: “Meanwhile, the economic development of this backward part of China will continue, leading to increased wealth and happiness, in line with the policies of the Chinese Communist Party, and despite the efforts of terrorists inspired by atavistic appeals to race and religion, aided and abetted by the CIA.”

  16. I don't believe it! permalink
    February 15, 2021 11:55 pm

    The CCP and happiness, what strange bedfellows.

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