Apple and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway have struck deals with a Chinese wind energy giant linked to controversial government and labor programs in Xinjiang, where the United States and other countries say China is committing genocide of Muslim minorities.
Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology, China’s largest wind turbine producer, on at least one occasion entered into negotiations to receive “labor exports” from Hotan prefecture in Xinjiang to a facility hundreds of kilometers away, new research from the Technical Transparency Project has found. Hotan officials traveled to a Goldwind establishment to “coordinate” labor exports, as part of an effort to strengthen workers ’“ organizational and disciplinary education, ”according to an archive local government media report discovered by the Technical Transparency Project.
“Job transfer” programs are closely associated with forced labor for Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. “Forced labor has now become an integral part of government efforts to ‘educate’ Muslim minorities,” the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington wrote in 2019, as part of his extensive research on the problem.
Goldwind, one of the world’s largest wind turbine producers, has strong ties to the Communist Party which is typical of many successful Chinese companies. But his connections with Xinjiang are unusual. The company’s CEO made explicit statements in support of a government program that placed Communist Party cadres in the homes of Muslim families in Xinjiang. In December, Goldwind signed an agreement with the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a paramilitary group that the United States has imposed sanctions last year for its connection to human rights abuses in the region.
It’s unclear whether the 2016 “labor export” talks have ever come to fruition, but the plans raise “worrying questions about whether the wind turbine company has participated in the exploitation of oil at its base. of Xinjiang, ”the Technical Transparency Project said in its report, released today.
In response to questions for this article, Goldwind said that “the information and allegations of the Technical Transparency Project are categorically false and have no basis in fact,” adding that Goldwind has never engaged in the forced export of labor from any region of China and does not use forced labor of any kind.
Goldwind also said that the wind turbines it supplies in North America and other regions are made and assembled on the east coast of China, and not in Xinjiang.
The Chinese government is campaigning for surveillance, prison, and forced labor aimed at millions of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang including Uighurs, Kazakhs, and others. The program has provoked strong censorship by UN officials and governments including the United States, the EU and Canada.
In 2016, Apple invested in four wind energy projects with Beijing Tianrun New Energy Investment, a Goldwind company that manages wind farms in China. Tianrun gave Apple a 30% stake in each project. None of the wind projects are located in Xinjiang. Apple said the projects were completed in 2017, and that Goldwind has not provided them since.
The investment was part of “Apple’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions from its manufacturing,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives. he told the state newspaper the China Daily at the moment, adding that it would allow Apple to send clean energy to its suppliers in China.
“The search for the presence of forced labor is part of every assessment we do in all the countries where we do business,” Apple said in response to questions about this article. “We are following it closely and in the past year, despite COVID-19 restrictions, we have conducted other investigations and have found no evidence of forced labor anywhere in our supply chain.”
In October 2018, Berkshire Hathaway Energy funded provided to Goldwind branch in Chicago to develop a $ 250 million wind farm in McCulloch County, Texas, called the Rattlesnake Wind Project. Twenty gold he sold the project, which he described as the largest in the United States, in November 2020.
Berkshire Hathaway did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.
Goldwind’s ties with Xinjiang raise even more difficult questions for Western companies doing business with China’s rapidly growing alternative energy sector. BuzzFeed news reported in January that solar energy depends heavily on the key components used in solar panels that are mainly made in Xinjiang.
Goldwind controls 21% of the country’s wind energy market, according to data from BloombergNEF. It is has state shareholders, including the state-owned company China Three Gorges Corporation. The company’s 2020 net income grows almost 35% to $ 452.4 million compared to a year earlier.
The American government banned the import of tomatoes and cotton from Xinjiang, saying the two industries are intertwined with forced labor. But Xinjiang’s largest export to the United States in 2020 was actually wind turbines, the South China Morning Post reported. reported in December, citing Chinese government trade data.
“The United States is a hot market for wind power, so all suppliers are looking to sell here,” said Xizhou Zhou, who heads market research firm IHS Markit on global practice and renewable energy.
Wu Gang, founder and president of Goldwind, visits southern Xinjiang – a part of the region where Uyghurs form a larger part of the population – at least six times a year for “poverty alleviation work.” which involves living and eating with families in the villages due to government requirements, according to a 2018 publication published by Goldwind’s company account on the Chinese social platform WeChat and discovered by the Technical Transparency Project. The trips are part of a controversial government program known in Chinese as mud, an acronym for the slogan “Visit the People, Benefit the People, and Gather the Hearts of the People.”
Wu’s participation in the program is described as part of Goldwind’s job to become a good “corporate citizen”. During these trips, Wu played football with local children and created “cultural stations,” the article said.
Ma u mud The program facilitates state surveillance, according to a 2018 investigation by Human Rights Watch. During these visits, which can last several days, “families are required to provide officials with information about their lives and political visions, and are subject to political indoctrination,” Human Rights Watch found. The group has asked the government to end the program immediately, adding that there is no evidence that families have the power to refuse these visits. U mud program allows as well the government to collect data on ethnic minorities that helps determine who is detained, Human Rights Watch found.
Wu is a former member of China’s rubber press parliament, the National People’s Congress, and still stands at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a legislative body whose function is largely ceremonial.
Twenty gold he signed his agreement with a division of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps in December – four months after the United States imposed sanctions on the organization – for supplying power to a small town called Beitun.
Goldwind’s large presence in the market has earned it many Western business partners. The Las Lomas wind project in South Texas, consisting of 48 wind turbines spread over 36,000 hectares near the Mexican border, is operated by French energy company Engie and selling energy to Microsoft. A survey by the South China Morning Post shipping records and other official data showed that Las Lomas purchased wind turbines from Xinjiang Goldwind. Wu told Engie is a major customer of the subsidiary Goldwind International.
“As for the Uyghur situation in China, Engie has decided to conduct specific checks on its interested suppliers,” he told the company in response to questions from BuzzFeed News. The company is committed to ensuring that forced labor is not used in its supply chain, he added.
Examination of Apple’s work in China has been growing in recent months. The information reported in May that he and two human rights groups had discovered seven Apple suppliers linked to programs associated with forced labor. At least five of them “have received thousands of workers and other minority workers at specific factory sites or subsidiaries that have worked for Apple,” the publication said, adding that an Apple supplier ran a factory near a suspected detention center. in Xinjiang.
“We ask Apple CEO Tim Cook to remove Chinese suppliers in Xinjiang who are involved in forced labor,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. James P. McGovern, who is the co-founder, told BuzzFeed News -chairman of the Executive Committee of the Congress in China. statement. “We also urge Apple to engage with US Customs and Border Protection on its supply chains in China to ensure that no Apple imports are made through forced labor. It must be a concerted, hard and responsive response. globalization at the atrocities committed in Xinjiang. ”