Some of Apple’s suppliers may have been making use of forced labor and what’s worse is that the forced labor programs these suppliers use are mostly targeting the Uyghurs, China’s Muslim minority population. The investigation was conducted by The Information with two human rights groups and it was revealed that seven companies that supply Apple with products or other services and also supported forced labor programs.
Forcing people away from their homes under the cover of work programs and forcing them to work under bad conditions and keeping them underpaid, are all serious violations of human rights. The investigation’s goal was to uncover evidence of such activities. Six of the seven suppliers investigated were said to participate in work programs operated by the Chinese government. According to the human rights groups working with the investigation, these work programs were mostly used as cover for forced labor.
Workers who didn’t join the programs could be jailed for refusing and those enrolled in them were often moved far away from their homes. The surprising thing is that one of the suppliers operates in Xinjiang, the region of China populated by Uyghurs and where reports have shown the most horrific violation of human rights. Yes, we’re talking about the detention camps set up for the Muslims in Xinjiang. Very little detail is known about them.
Apple was forced to speak out on the matter, after the investigation released its findings, only saying that they “found no evidence of forced labor anywhere we operate. We will continue doing all we can to protect workers and ensure they are treated with dignity and respect”. The suppliers in question are said to supply Apple with antennas, cables, and coatings, among other products and services.
The problem isn’t only with Apple, many other tech companies also work with these suppliers. The investigation revealed names like Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Facebook, who call largely rely on the suppliers in China. The situation is the worst in Xinjiang with reports revealing that more than 100 detention facilities have been located beside factories. The Trump administration admonished China’s oppressive practices saying that they were “committing genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang”.
China has kept very hush about the details of their detention camps so nothing concrete is known but huge tech companies like Apple should really double-check their suppliers lest they be misunderstood to be supporting things like forced labor.