China’s electric vehicle battery supply chain shows signs of forced labor, report says

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Hundreds of Uyghurs work for a mining conglomerate that produces raw materials for electric vehicles under a so-called labor transfer program in China, The New York Times reported.

Shen Long Quan | Visual Group China | Getty Images

According to a New York Times report, Chinese companies that produce raw materials for electric vehicle batteries are showing signs of the use of forced labor.

The newspaper reported that mining conglomerate Xinjiang Nonferrous Metal Industry is employing hundreds of Uyghurs, an ethnic minority in China, under a so-called labor transfer scheme.

The Times reported that China has acknowledged having such a program in place that moves Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities from southern Xinjiang north to work in industrial jobs.

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The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a UKTN request for comment.

The US State Department has previously noted, citing an independent researcher, that transferred workers risk being subjected to forced labor. He also previously cited Chinese academic publications that “described labor transfers as a crucial means of fragmenting Uyghur society and mitigating the ‘negative’ impact of religion.”

In social media posts translated by The Times, Xinjiang Nonferrous said workers from predominantly Muslim minorities had received lectures on “eradicating religious extremism” and becoming workers who “have embraced their Chinese nationality”.

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Chinese authorities have repeatedly denied that the country imprisons or enslaves Uyghurs. On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the forced labor allegations in Xinjiang were a “huge lie invented by anti-China forces to denigrate China”. He said the rights of workers of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are duly protected.

Xinjiang’s nonferrous metal industry produces minerals and metals, including lithium, nickel, and copper. It exported metals to the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and India, The Times reported. It’s unclear if those relationships are continuing, however, The New York Times reported.

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The report was released on the eve of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act coming into force in the United States. The law prohibits products made by forced labor in Xinjiang from entering the US market.

The Times reported that thousands of companies may have a link to Xinjiang in their supply chains. If fully enforced, many products, including some needed for electric vehicles, could be stopped at the border.

Read the full report in The New York Times.

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