Solar PV industry caught up in China forced-labour controversy

(EurActiv, 16 Feb 2024) Political momentum is swaying in favour of European solar panel manufacturers, as work progresses on a new EU law banning forced labour practices that would effectively block Chinese imports.

China’s share in each manufacturing stage of solar panels exceeds 80%. And these cheap panels are fuelling Europe’s solar boom. However, the tide may be turning. 

Germany’s chemical giant BASF announced its exit from joint ventures in Xinjiang on 9 February, a region in Western China in which systematic human rights abuses of the Uyghur Muslim minority have been documented.

Similar moves have been made across other industries: carmaker Volkswagen is eyeing an out itself, as thousands of its cars are stuck in a US port for components linked to forced labour.

“There is no country around the globe where this crime [of state-sponsored forced labour] is committed so forcefully as in the People’s Republic of China and in the Xinjang autonomous region in particular,” said Reinhard Bütikofer, a green EU lawmaker who spoke at a conference convened by the European Solar Manufacturers Council (ESMC) in Brussels on Thursday (15 February).

“What they do is clearly in a league of its own,” added the German lawmaker, who is among a group of MEPs sanctioned by the Chinese government for being critical of Beijing.

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EurActiv, 16 Feb 2024: Solar PV industry caught up in China forced-labour controversy