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Apple’s longtime supplier accused of using forced labor in China

The Washington Post reports:

One of the oldest and most well-known iPhone suppliers has been accused of using forced Muslim labor in its factories, according to documents uncovered by a human rights group, adding new scrutiny to Apple’s human rights record in China.

The documents, discovered by the Tech Transparency Project and shared exclusively with The Washington Post, detail how thousands of Uighur workers from the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang were sent to work for Lens Technology. Lens also supplies Amazon and Tesla, according to its annual report.

Lens Technology is one of at least five companies connected to Apple’s supply chain that have now been linked to alleged forced labor from the Xinjiang region, according to human rights groups. Lens Technology stands out from other Apple component suppliers because of its high-profile founder and long, well-documented history going back to the early days of the iPhone.

“Our research shows that Apple’s use of forced labor in its supply chain goes far beyond what the company has acknowledged,” said Katie Paul, director of the Tech Transparency Project.

Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock said the company has confirmed that Lens Technology has not received any labor transfers of Uighur workers from Xinjiang. He said Apple earlier this year ensured that none of its other suppliers are using Uighur labor transferred from Xinjiang.

“Apple has zero tolerance for forced labor,” Rosenstock said. “Looking for the presence of forced labor is part of every supplier assessment we conduct, including surprise audits. These protections apply across the supply chain, regardless of a person’s job or location. Any violation of our policies has immediate consequences, including possible business termination. As always, our focus is on making sure everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and we will continue doing all we can to protect workers in our supply chain.”

Lens Technology didn’t respond to requests for comment.

In response to faxed questions from The Post, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing called forced labor in China “nonexistent” and accused people with “ulterior motives” of fabricating it. It said a number of companies had hired auditors to conduct investigations, which “confirmed the nonexistence of ‘forced labor.’ ” It did not name the companies.

Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment. Amazon spokeswoman Samantha Kruse declined to comment. (Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.) [Continue reading…]

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