Apple and Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway have done business with a Chinese wind energy giant tied to controversial government and labor programs in Xinjiang, where the US and other countries say China is perpetrating genocide against Muslim minorities.
Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology, China’s largest wind turbine maker, has held talks at least once to obtain “labor exports” from Hotan Prefecture in Xinjiang to a facility hundreds of miles away, new research from the Tech Transparency Project has revealed. According to an archived local government media report exposed by the Tech Transparency Project, Hotan officials traveled to a Goldwind plant to “coordinate” labor exports to strengthen “organizational and disciplinary training” of workers.
“Labor transfer” programs are closely related to forced labor for Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. “Forced labor has become an integral part of government efforts to ‘re-educate’ Muslim minorities,” wrote the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington in 2019 as part of its extensive research on the subject.
Goldwind, one of the largest wind turbine manufacturers in the world, has close ties to the ruling Communist Party, which is typical of many successful Chinese companies. But its ties with Xinjiang are unusual. The company’s CEO has made explicit statements to support a government program that has housed Communist Party cadres in the homes of Muslim families in Xinjiang. In December, Goldwind signed a contract with the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a paramilitary group that the US sanctioned last year for its links to human rights abuses in the region.
It’s unclear whether the 2016 “labor export” discussions ever came to fruition, but the plans raise “troubling questions about whether the wind turbine company participated in the exploitation of Uyghurs in its home base in Xinjiang,” the Tech Transparency Project said in his report published today.
When asked about this article, Goldwind replied that “the Tech Transparency Project’s information and allegations are categorically incorrect and have no real basis,” adding that Goldwind has never been involved in the forced export of workers from any region of China and does not use any forced labor a.
Goldwind also said the wind turbines it supplies in North America and other regions are made and assembled on China’s east coast rather than Xinjiang.
The Chinese government is conducting a campaign of surveillance, detention and forced labor against the millions of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, including Uyghurs, Kazakhs and others. The program has met with strong criticism from UN officials and governments, including the United States, the EU and Canada.
In 2016, Apple invested in four wind power projects with Beijing Tianrun New Energy Investment, a Goldwind subsidiary that operates wind farms in China. Tianrun gave Apple a 30% stake in each project. None of the wind projects are in Xinjiang. Apple said the projects were all completed in 2017 and Goldwind has not delivered them since then.
The investment was part of Apple’s “commitment to reduce carbon emissions from its manufacturing,” Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environmental, political and social initiatives, told state-run China Daily at the time, adding that it was Would enable Apple to deliver clean energy to its suppliers in China.
“Finding forced labor is part of every assessment we conduct in every country we do business in,” replied Apple when asked about this article. “We are closely monitoring this and, despite the restrictions of COVID-19, carried out further investigations over the past year and found no evidence of forced labor anywhere in our supply chain.”
In October 2018, Berkshire Hathaway Energy provided the Chicago-based Goldwind subsidiary with funding to develop a $ 250 million wind farm in McCulloch County, Texas, called the Rattlesnake Wind Project. Goldwind sold what was known as the largest project in the US in November 2020.
Berkshire Hathaway did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.
Goldwind’s links with Xinjiang raise even more difficult questions for Western companies doing business in China’s fast-growing alternative energy sector. BuzzFeed News reported in January that solar power is heavily reliant on the key components used in solar panels, which are primarily made in Xinjiang.
According to BloombergNEF, Goldwind controls 21% of the country’s wind energy market. It has state-owned shareholders, including the state-owned energy company China Three Gorges Corporation. The company’s net income in 2020 rose nearly 35% year over year to $ 452.4 million.
The US government has banned the import of tomatoes and cotton from Xinjiang because the two industries are involved in forced labor. However, Xinjiang’s largest export to the US in 2020 was actually wind turbines, the South China Morning Post reported in December, citing trade data from the Chinese government.
“The US is a hot market for wind power, so all vendors are trying to sell there,” said Xizhou Zhou, who heads the global power and renewable energy practice at research firm IHS Markit.
Wu Gang, founder and chairman of Goldwind, visits southern Xinjiang – a part of the region where Uyghurs make up a larger part of the population – at least six times a year for “poverty reduction work”, which involves visiting families in villages live and eat because government requirements, according to a 2018 post published by Goldwind’s corporate account on Chinese social media platform WeChat and uncovered by the Tech Transparency Project. The trips are part of a controversial government program known in Chinese as fanghuiju, an acronym for the slogan “Visit the people, use the people and bring the hearts of the people together”.
Wu’s participation in the program is described as part of Goldwind’s work to become a good “corporate citizen”. During these trips, Wu played soccer with local children and set up “cultural stations,” the article says.
But the fanghuiju According to a 2018 study by Human Rights Watch, the program facilitates government surveillance. During these visits, which can last several days, “families are required to provide officials with information about their lives and political views and are politically indoctrinated,” Human Rights Watch noted. The group called on the government to end the program immediately, adding that there is no evidence that families can refuse these visits. The fanghuiju The program also enables the government to collect data on ethnic minorities that will help determine who is incarcerated, Human Rights Watch noted.
Wu is a former member of China’s Stamp Parliament, the National People’s Congress, and still sits on the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a legislative body whose function is largely ceremonial.
Goldwind signed a contract with a division of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps in December – four months after the US imposed sanctions on the organization – to provide electricity to a small town called Beitun.
Goldwind’s large presence in the market has earned the company a number of western business partners. The Las Lomas wind project in southern Texas, consisting of 48 wind turbines on an area of 36,000 hectares near the Mexican border, is operated by the French energy company Engie and sells electricity to Microsoft. An examination of ship records and other official data from the South China Morning Post found that Las Lomas obtained wind turbines from Xinjiang Goldwind. Wu said Engie is a key customer of the company’s subsidiary, Goldwind International.
“With regard to the situation of the Uyghurs in China, Engie has decided to carry out specific checks on its affected suppliers,” the company said in response to questions from BuzzFeed News. The company is committed to ensuring that no forced labor is used in its supply chain, it added.
The attention of Apple’s work in China has increased in recent months. The news agency reported in May that she and two human rights groups had discovered seven Apple suppliers associated with programs related to forced labor. At least five of them “received thousands of Uyghurs and other minority workers at certain factory locations or subsidiaries that worked for Apple,” the publication reported, adding that an Apple supplier ran a factory next to an alleged detention center in Xinjiang.
“We urge Apple CEO Tim Cook to part with Chinese suppliers in Xinjiang who are involved in forced labor,” said US Senator Jeff Merkley and Rep. James P. McGovern, co-chair of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, Opposite BuzzFeed News in a “We are also asking Apple to partner with US Customs and Border Protection in their Chinese supply chains to ensure no Apple imports are being forced labor. There needs to be a concerted, tough, and global response on the atrocities in Xinjiang. “