Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., is raising concerns over special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry's investments in a fund linked to a business accused of profiting from Chinese slave labor.
Sasse, in a letter to Kerry, demanded answers over a "potential conflict of interest" of him financially benefiting from deals he makes with the Chinese Communist Party.
Chinese solar panel manufacturer LONGi Green Energy had its imports seized last week by Customs and Border Protection due to allegations the company is linked to other companies "known to be using forced labor," according to Fox News.
And government disclosures indicate Kerry and his wife hold more than $1 million in investments in Hillhouse China Value Fund L.P., and Hillhouse is a top shareholder in LONGi.
Sasse wrote, if reports of Kerry's investments are accurate, then "failure to divest raises serious moral and ethical issues and may present a conflict between ... personal financial interests and ... efforts to address serious human rights abuses in China."
Sasse's letter added: "Reports that you are actively lobbying members of Congress to oppose pending legislation that would ban imports of Chinese goods made by Uyghur forced labor are equally appalling, and reinforce the necessity for a closer review of the appearance of a conflict of interest."
Kerry stands to wield "substantial influence over energy and climate policy in the executive branch," and his investments with Hillhouse "suggests that you may personally benefit from any climate deal reached with the Chinese government that increases demand for solar panels produced by Uyghur forced labor," Sasse continued.
"You and I both know that the Chinese government understands that U.S. officials' personal financial interests are a source of leverage during negotiations and can be used to blunt the impact of U.S. advocacy on other important issues," Sasse wrote. "It is not unreasonable to ask whether this potential conflict of interest could inadvertently signal to Beijing that you may be willing to trade progress toward a climate deal for silence on key human rights issues, at a moment when the Chinese government continues to commit genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang."
Sasse concluded with a series of questions toward Kerry aimed at addressing concerns in the letter.
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