A report from an Australian think tank has listed tech giants like Apple, Amazon, Huawei, Samsung, Google, Microsoft, and Sony as benefitting from forced labor in China.
The report, published by Australian Strategic Policy Institute, claims that between 2017 and 2019, the Chinese government transferred more than 80,000 Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities out of the Xinjiang region and into factories “that strongly suggest forced labour.”
Describing the forced labor accusations, the ASPI report reads:
In factories far away from home, they typically live in segregated dormitories, undergo organised Mandarin and ideological training outside working hours, are subject to constant surveillance, and are forbidden from participating in religious observances. Numerous sources, including government documents, show that transferred workers are assigned minders and have limited freedom of movement.
In addition to that alleged treatment, the report claims China is pushing these minorities through “reeducation” either before or during their time performing forced labor at dozens of factories across China that are part of the supply chains for numerous corporations.
Besides the tech companies listed above, the ASPI’s list of 83 companies benefitting from these workers also includes BMW, Gap, General Motors, Nike, Nintendo, Siemens, and Toshiba.
China’s treatment of the nation’s Muslim Uyghur minority, including detention and subjecting them to reeducation, has faced harsh criticism from nations like the United States and Canada, as well as the United Nations.
One of the ASPI’s case studies contained in the report examines the treatment of workers at several factories that are key parts of Apple’s supply chain.
One of them is O-Film, which makes the front-facing cameras that were found in the iPhone 8 and iPhone X. (O-Film is also a supplier for tech companies like Huawei, Samsung, and HP.) The ASPI report notes how Apple CEO Tim Cook praised the company for a “humane approach towards employees” following a spring 2017 visit.
But, in reality, the report claims, Uyghur workers sent to a different O-Film factory were subjected to reeducation efforts where they “were expected to ‘gradually alter their ideology’ and turn into ‘modern, capable youth’ who ‘understand the Party’s blessing, feel gratitude toward the Party, and contribute to stability,’” according to a local newspaper.
The ASPI notes that the Chinese government has denied accusations of forced labor and, according to one report, the government claimed that reeducation centers “were part of its efforts to fight terrorism and separatism in Xinjiang.”
Meanwhile, Uyghurs who have been released tell a very different story, detailing the way in which they were constantly surveilled and various religious activities were outright banned.
In a statement to Mashable, a Microsoft spokesperson said, “Microsoft is committed to responsible and ethical sourcing. We take this responsibility very seriously and take significant steps to enforce our policies and code of conduct in support of human rights, labor, health and safety, environmental protection, and business ethics through our assurance program. All forms of forced labor are specifically banned by our Supplier Code of Conduct. We are investigating the claims and will take appropriate action if breaches of our code of conduct exist.”
Mashable has also reached out to Apple, Amazon, Google, and Samsung for comment on the report.
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