SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - Claims that Chinese solar firms are benefiting from forced labour in Xinjiang are unfounded and unfairly stigmatise firms with operations there, the country's solar association said.
The United States last week banned imports from five Chinese solar companies accused of using forced labour in Xinjiang including Hoshine Silicon Industry and a unit of GCL New Energy Holdings.
The White House said forced labour was "an integral part of (China's) systematic abuses against the Uighur population and other ethnic and religious minority groups" in Xinjiang.
The China Photovoltaic Industry Association said in a statement that it had recently inspected solar industry production facilities in Xinjiang and the US assertions had no factual basis.
It also said the industry had created a large number of jobs, contributing to the region's economic and social development and added that the rights of employees from all ethnic groups were fully respected.
Xinjiang, home to China's predominantly Muslim Uighur population, is responsible for as much as 45 per cent of the global production of polysilicon, a key ingredient in the manufacturing of solar panels.
China denies all accusations of abuse and has repeatedly denied claims that it runs a vast network of forced labour camps in Xinjiang, saying it has set up "vocational training and education centres" to raise employment prospects among Uighurs and other ethnic groups.