Bedford Borough Council said that it was aware that Jinko Sola was facing action, but added that its contractors had undertaken a thorough due diligence process to ensure that none of the products and materials supplied to the council originated from a source where the use of forced labour existed.
In June 2021, the Biden Administration announced three actions in response to labour practices of companies operating in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
This included an immediate Withhold Release Order (WRO) by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on silica-based products manufactured by Xinjiang-based Hoshine Silicon Industry Co. Ltd., and its subsidiaries.
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As Hoshine is reportedly the world’s largest producer of silicon metal, the WRO has had a widespread impact on the solar panel industry.
It was widely reported that solar panels made by Jinko Solar where among those impounded by the CBP in June.
A CBP spokesperson said: “The WRO applies to downstream products incorporating the silica-based components as inputs, regardless of where they are produced.
“Among the wide range of products covered by the Hoshine WRO is metallurgical grade silicon, a silica-based product used in production of solar panels.”
A Borough Council spokesperson said: “The solar project is being delivered for Bedford Borough Council by a UK contractor, Vital Energi, who have [sic] a Modern Slavery policy that applies to the UK and supply chain.
“Vital Energi have [sic] employed a supplier to provide the solar panels. The supplier and manufacturer of the solar panels is the Jinko group of companies and its subsidiaries.
“The polices and statements of the Jinko group apply to their UK and overseas operations.
“The policies from Jinko Solar confirm they are fully committed to conduct its business in a lawful and ethical manner, including engaging with suppliers who also respect human rights, providing safe and inclusive workplaces, and promoting a sustainable future.”
Last year, the UK government said it was investigating the forced labour claims.
A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesperson said: “We have firm measures in place to ensure UK businesses and the public sector are not complicit in human rights violations or abuses in Xinjiang.
“We are thoroughly investigating reports of forced labour in the global solar panel supply chain, and we reiterate our call to all UK firms to ensure their supply chains are free of forced labour.”
The UK government said that it has led international efforts to hold China to account for its human rights violations in Xinjiang at the UN.
Adding it has imposed sanctions, including the freezing of assets and travel bans on senior Chinese officials.
Jinko Solar said ‘no comment’ when asked by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) if the company is now free to export to the US, and whether its Malaysia plant (where the council said its solar panels were made) uses components built in China.
CBP said it does not comment on individual companies.