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Apple supplier accused of using forced Uighur labor – report

Victor Barreiro Jr.

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Apple supplier accused of using forced Uighur labor – report
Tech Transparency Project director Katie Paul says, 'Our research shows that Apple’s use of forced labor in its supply chain goes far beyond what the company has acknowledged'

Chinese tech supplier Lens Technology – a long-time supplier of Apple which also supplies tech for Amazon and Tesla – was accused on Tuesday, December 29, of using forced Uighur labor its factories.

The Washington Post report cited documents acquired by the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), which outlined how Uighur workers from China’s Xinjiang region were sent to work for Lens Technology.

TTP’s investigation cites government records, as well as media reports from the Global Times of China.

TTP’s report says Lens Technology was sent thousands of workers from Xinjiang. Human rights groups point to Uighur worker transfers from Xinjiang to other parts of China as forced or coerced labor.

China’s government doesn’t permit human rights groups to enter the country, interview laborers, or observe working conditions. TTP’s acquired documents do not detail the working conditions within Lens Technology factories.

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

Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock said the company confirmed Lens Technology has not received any labor transfers of Uighur workers from Xinjiang, adding Apple is making sure its suppliers are not using Uighur labor from Xinjiang.

Rosenstock commented, “Apple has zero tolerance for forced labor.”

He 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.”

Rosenstock added Lens Technology was one of 1,142 suppliers in 49 countries audited in 2019 to ensure good labor conditions are upheld, the results of which are posted yearly.

Lens Technology did not comment on the matter. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment, and Amazon spokeswoman Samantha Kruse declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Beijing’s Foreign Ministry replied to faxed questions from the Post, saying forced labor in China was “nonexistent.” The ministry also accused people with “ulterior motives” of fabricating such reports, as a number of companies which did audits “confirmed the nonexistence of forced labor.” The Foreign Ministry did not name the companies. –

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Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.