Equity fund also invested in tech company blacklisted for human rights abuses
By Alana Goodman
October 25, 2021
John Kerry (L) shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping (R) at the Great Hall of the People at the end of the eight round of U.S-China strategic and economic dialogues on June 7, 2016 in Beijing, China. / Getty Images
The Chinese private equity fund in which John Kerry holds a $1 million stake is not only invested in a tech company blacklisted for human rights abuses but is also a major shareholder in a solar panel company linked to labor abuses of the Uyghurs.
Last December, that private equity fund, Hillhouse China Value Fund L.P., purchased a 6 percent stake in LONGi Green Energy, a Chinese solar panel manufacturer, making it the company’s second largest shareholder.
LONGi has come under fire from human rights groups and U.S. lawmakers for sourcing many of its raw materials from companies suspected of using forced labor in Xinjiang, a region in northwest China where the government has cracked down on the Uyghur population and other ethnic minorities.
Hillhouse is also a major funder of a tech company tied to the Chinese government’s surveillance of the Uyghurs, as first reported by the Washington Free Beacon last week. News of that investment led Republican senators to call on Biden to fire Kerry over ethics concerns. Further insight into Hillhouse's holdings is likely to increase scrutiny of Kerry’s finances and raise questions about whether he is using his role as climate envoy to block regulations on Chinese solar panel imports. While Kerry has acknowledged that many solar panels are produced with forced labor in Xinjiang, he has also indicated resistance to additional financial restrictions or penalties on these goods.
"On the one hand, we’re saying to [China], ‘You have to do more to help deal with the climate,’" Kerry said last month. "And on the other hand, their solar panels are being sanctioned, which makes it harder for them to sell them."
Kerry holds "over $1,000,000" in Hillhouse, according to a financial disclosure report he filed at the beginning of the year.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) told the Free Beacon that Kerry’s investments are in conflict with his role as climate envoy. Rubio said Kerry has been actively lobbying against his bill that would bar Chinese imports made with slave labor, which passed the Senate with bipartisan support but has stalled in the House.
"John Kerry appears to have profited from a company tied to egregious human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Now it makes sense why he is actively working against my Uyghur Forced Labor Act," Rubio said. "But this is bigger than Kerry. A climate deal cannot make our nation complicit to the Chinese Communist Party’s slave labor practices."
Anders Corr, an intelligence analyst and publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, called Kerry’s China investments "an outrage" due to the human rights implications.
"Far too many investors have continued to pour billions into China even after abundant evidence that the country is executing an ongoing genocide and threatens war against our closest allies," Corr said. "That Kerry too had funds invested in China is an outrage, not least because he is a public official who claims to uphold the highest of ethics. Investing in China, given its shocking violation of human rights and totalitarian political system, should be cause for immediate removal from any positions of public trust."
Kerry's Hillhouse stake is through a trust in which his wife is the beneficiary. He stated in his disclosure that they are not involved in managing the investments. While Kerry sold off many of his energy-related holdings earlier this year, those divestments did not include Hillhouse, according to a disclosure filed in March with the Office of Government Ethics.
LONGi "is a customer of many of the polysilicon companies that are engaged in labor transfers in the Uyghur Region," according to a report by the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University. The company has ongoing purchasing agreements with polysilicon manufacturers GCL-Poly and Daqo, the report found.
GCL-Poly and Daqo were blacklisted by the U.S. Department of Commerce in June for allegedly "participating in the practice of, accepting, or utilizing forced labor involving Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups," according to the Biden administration.
A group called American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Circumvention (A-SMACC) has also been lobbying the Biden administration to investigate the supply chain of LONGi specifically, and other Chinese solar panel companies linked to forced labor, and to impose additional tariffs on those goods.
The group argued that China is monopolizing the solar panel supply chain through the use of forced labor, which allows them to manufacture the products at an extremely low cost, according to a submission filed with the Department of Commerce last week. The Biden administration now has 44 days to decide whether to launch an investigation, Timothy Brightbill, an attorney with Wiley Rein who is representing A-SMACC, told the Free Beacon.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment. LONGi did not respond to a request for comment.