Two Republican lawmakers warned President Joe Biden that his “green energy” agenda and climate envoy John Kerry’s finances could be intertwined with Uyghur slave labor.
Chinese solar panel manufacturers and their suppliers in the Xinjiang region are selling their goods to the United States in what Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana and Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina say could violate the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Kerry holds a $1 million stake in a Chinese equity firm with significant investments in at least one of the Chinese solar companies.
“We are writing to request that the administration move quickly to implement and enforce this provision of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act through the expeditious issuance of regulations, appropriate sanctions designations, and appropriate civil penalties or criminal prospections,” Banks and Wilson said in a Friday letter to Biden. “Any delay in implementation of this act may encourage businesses to disregard the law.”
If the Chinese companies fall under the law Banks and Wilson referenced, then U.S. Customs and Border Protection would be empowered to stop their products from entering the country and the Treasury Department could enforce financial blacklists.
The Republicans zeroed in on Chinese solar panel company Longi, which specializes in the production of monocrystalline silicon wafers, a key component of solar panels. The letter also named Chinese companies Xinjiang Daqo, East Hope, and GCL New Energy.
Longi is especially interesting because Kerry, the former senator and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, reportedly owns a piece of it.
“We are concerned about a possible conflict of interest arising from reports regarding Special Climate Envoy John Kerry’s $1 million stake in the aforementioned Chinese solar panel giant Longi,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.
Kerry was asked in May about whether he had pressed China on ending its repression of the Uyghurs, and he told the House that he raised it at the “highest levels” in China, but not with China’s climate envoy.
“That’s not my lane,” Kerry also said. “My lane is very specifically to try and get the Chinese to move to do what we need to do with respect to climate itself.”
Banks said if the Biden administration is serious about stopping human rights abuses in Xinjiang, it must determine if the act applied to Longi and other companies.
“Overall, we are seeing the Biden administration become more and more complicit in the genocide happening in China,” Banks, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, told the Washington Examiner. “They didn’t do a full boycott of the Beijing Olympics, and they’re not enforcing sanctions laws that received overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress.”
The 2022 Games have been dubbed the “Genocide Olympics” in part due to a conclusion by the U.S. government that China is conducting genocide against Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang in western China.
Yicai Global, a Chinese media outlet run by state-owned Shanghai Media Group, reported in January that Longi products were being used in Tesla’s Austin Gigafactory. The outlet said that Tesla Greater China declined to comment, and the claim hasn’t been confirmed.
The Commerce Department added solar panel supply chain companies Hoshine, Daqo, and GCL to a blacklist in June 2021 “for accepting or utilizing forced labor in the implementation” of China’s “campaign of repression” in Xinjiang. Hoshine is a major supplier for Daqo, and both those companies are reportedly suppliers for Longi.