U.S. Customs has begun halting the entry of Chinese-made solar panels into the country after strong indications that they are being built with slave labor.

The measures adopted by the customs authorities come after the Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) enacted in June an import ban on solar products containing materials manufactured by the Chinese company Hoshine, which, according to the authorities, is reported to operate in the Chinese region of Xinjiang and uses forced labor. 

In turn, the Senate, according to Newmax in an article published this week, adopted an amendment proposed on August 11 by Alaska Republican Senator Dan Sullivan, which would prohibit any renewable energy project that uses materials produced in China from receiving federal funds and subsidies.

“If we are going to build out our domestic renewable energy industry, we need to have an honest conversation about where we are sourcing these materials,” Sullivan said, adding that financial support should be denied to human rights violators. 

He also noted that the U.S. should stop relying on China for resources that are crucial to the country’s economy and security, which he said, “we have in abundance in the U.S., particularly in Alaska.”

The Chinese regime is accused of carrying out a widespread crackdown on ethnic and religious minorities that includes mass detention in forced labor and brainwashing camps. 

Research by Sheffield Hallam University suggests that much of the world’s solar panel production may depend on the exploitation of these minority populations.

The research further suggests that the Chinese regime has between 71% and 97% of the world’s capacity for various solar panel components and that Xinjiang alone produces nearly half of the world’s solar-grade polysilicon and operates factories for some of the industry’s major players.

The Washington Post cited some views showing that, by banning imported solar panels from entering the U.S. under these manufacturing conditions, it creates tension between the administration’s human rights agenda and its efforts to address the climate crisis.

Alejandro Mayorkas, the Secretary of Homeland Security who oversees CBP, said during his announcement of the import ban in June that the Biden administration remains committed to implementing renewable energy, but that it was very important to “root out forced labor wherever it exists,” so alternative products would be sought “to achieve the environmental impacts that are a critical goal of this administration.”

Meanwhile, renewable energy expert and Stanford University engineering professor, Mark Z. Jacobson, raised the need to “rapidly transition” from traditional fuels “to other renewable energies,” since, for him, “any slowdown of this transition creates a loss of life,” due to atmospheric pollution. 

According to reports, importers of the panels who are detained at U.S. Customs have 90 days to request their release by presenting evidence to CBP that no forced labor was used in their production.

“Customs has set a very high bar for the amount of evidence that it wants, and my experience says that it’s almost never enough,” said Customs and Trade attorney Elise Shibles, of the law firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, during a recent webinar on detentions, according to the Washington Post.

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