Secrecy and Abuse Claims Haunt China’s Solar Factories in XinjiangApril 13, 2021
Three owners of Xinjiang’s polysilicon refineries have been linked to a state-run employment program that, according to some foreign governments and academics, may at times amount to forced labor. China denies such accusations and recently insisted that journalists and diplomats are free to go see for themselves.
That’s why two Bloomberg reporters went to Xinjiang in March, after weeks of unsuccessful requests for factory tours. Such visits aren’t unusual elsewhere in China. But this time a security apparatus sprang into action. Upon our landing in Urumqi, two police officers boarded the plane, one with an automatic weapon slung across his chest and a photo identifying one of the reporters in hand. After questioning on the tarmac, we left the airport. For the next three days agents followed us everywhere, obstructing all attempts to speak to locals and deleting our photos.
On the second day in Xinjiang, a solicitous propaganda official from the economic zone that houses the GCL-Poly and East Hope facilities trailed behind our car, even at a petrol station.
Back in Beijing, Xu Guixiang, a spokesman for the Xinjiang government, said at a briefing that the government “would never” interfere in journalists’ reporting. “I don’t think such things exist,” he said of the armed officers who met us on the plane and cars that followed us around. “If you encounter any of the scenarios you mentioned, please let us know.