The Daily Telegraph

Europe leads surge in tech imports from Xinjiang despite concerns over forced labour

- By Simina Mistreanu and Jenny Pan

WESTERN countries are leading the surge in imports of green technology from Xinjiang despite concerns about forced labour, according to official Chinese data.

Exports from the territory to Europe – particular­ly of green technology – swelled last month, as soaring oil and gas prices caused by the war in Ukraine drive demand for clean energy.

Shipments of lithium-ion batteries – used in electric cars – to the EU jumped six-fold in August compared to the same period last year.

Xinjiang is also home to factories for some of the solar industry’s largest players and supplies half of the world’s polysilico­n – the highly conductive material from which solar panels are made.

But rights activists and foreign government­s worry the goods may be produced with forced labour by the region’s Uyghur ethnic minority. The UN this month said China may have committed crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, where it is believed to have arbitraril­y detained more than one million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities. Beijing is also accused of running forced labour schemes in the region. China has dismissed the allegation­s.

The US has called China’s treatment of Uyghurs genocide and taken steps to curb the import of goods thought to have been made with forced labour.

But the war in Ukraine has driven demand for solar panels and clean energy and has also led to a shortage of rare industrial metals such as those used in lithium-ion batteries, forcing manufactur­ers to look for suppliers other than Russia.

Xinjiang’s exports to the EU surged more than 130 per cent to reach $137million (£121million) in August compared with a year earlier. Belgium, the EU’S biggest buyer, imported $34.8million of goods, a 410 per cent increase.

Britain’s imports from Xinjiang were up 91.4 per cent in August from a year earlier, amounting to $26.4million.

But just as imports from Xinjiang surged across Europe, policymake­rs in Brussels were putting the finishing touches to a proposal that would ban products made with forced labour.

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