Apple supplier in China 'using forced Uighur labour': report

Apple supplier in China 'using forced Uighur labour': report
Apple has denied any role or connection to forced labour practices in China following the release of a report by the Tech Transparency Project.
3 min read
30 December, 2020
An estimated 1 million Uighurs and other minorities are in Chinese 're-education camps' [Getty/ Archive]

A Chinese firm supplying gadget glass to Apple, Amazon, Tesla, and others, has been accused of using forced Uighur labour from the predominantly Muslim Xinjiang province, according to a report from the Tech Transparency Project (TTP)

Hunan-based firm Lens Technology has used thousands of such workers as part of the Chinese government's mass detention and internment of Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minority groups, according to the report.

Citing government records and Chinese media reports, the TPP investigation says thousands were sent from Xinjiang to Lens Technology's factories in Hunan province as part of a "poverty alleviation" programme spearheaded by the Xinjiang–Suzhou Chamber of Commerce.

One video cited by the report shows hundreds of workers purportedly celebrating China's National Day outside a building. Banners shown in the video indicate the workers are from Xinjiang and under the employment of Lens Technology.

Following media coverage of the TTP report on Tuesday, Apple swiftly denied any role or connection to forced labour practices in China.

"Apple has zero tolerance for forced labour. Looking for the presence of forced labour is part of every supplier assessment we conduct, including surprise audits," Apple spokesperson Josh Rosenstock said in a statement.

"Earlier this year we confirmed that none of our suppliers have Uighur workers from 'pairing programs' from Xinjiang on any Apple production lines."

The California-based tech giant has come under scrutiny over its links to Chinese firms due to its alleged role in lobbying against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. The bill would sanction US firms block imports from Xinjiang unless proof is provided that forced labour was not used in production.

It is unclear which firms have attempted to weaken or change the bill, however, an international human rights coalition has publicly urged Apple, Nike, Walmart, Adidas, Gap, and several other companies to disclose whether their activities.

The group, called the Coalition to End Forced Labor in the Uyghur Region,  is made up of US trade union federations, UK non-profit Anti-Slavery International, the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) and several Uighur advocacy groups.

China has detained an estimated one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking minorities in "re-education" camps in the tightly-controlled region of Xinjiang in the country's northwest.

Muslims in Xinjiang are barred from fasting during the holy month of Ramadan and have allegedly been forced to drink alcohol and eat pork - both forbidden in Islam - in internment camps.

Rights groups and former inmates see the measures as part of a campaign to forcefully assimilate Uighurs and other minorities into the country's majority ethnic Han society, diluting their unique cultures and religious beliefs.

China has dismissed allegations of human rights abuses, claiming that it has set up 're-education' centres to combat extremism.

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