A total of seven electronics suppliers linked to Apple have been implicated with reports of forced labour in China, calling into question ethical considerations of Apple’s supply chain.
More specifically, seven Apple suppliers in the Xinjiang region have been accused of using forced labour of the minority Uyghur Muslim population.
The use of forced labour of China’s Uyghur population has also been widespread in other industries like the cotton industry, of which the Xinjiang region is a major producer for use in textiles production.
The report comes from The Information who says that the publication, alongside human rights groups “have found seven companies supplying device components, coatings and assembly services to Apple that are linked to alleged forced labor involving Uyghurs and other oppressed minorities in China.”
The report continues to explain that “At least five of those companies received thousands of Uyghur and other minority workers at specific factory sites or subsidiaries that did work for Apple, the investigation found.”
The findings of the report come in direct contrast to Apple’s previous statements on its supply chains, which the company says has no ties to forced labour in China.
Interestingly, all of the major tech giants like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon have also been implicated in allegations that the use of forced labour in their supply chains is prevalent.
The publication, as well as Australian-based think tank have reviewed documents, drone footage and satellite images suggesting that a number of production facilities in Xinjiang display tell-tale signs of forced labour.
These signs include large fences and unscalable walls surrounding production facilities, as well as one-way gates. Nathan Ruser of the Australian think tank says that “almost no other factories in Xinjiang have these characteristics except for industrial parks where there is detainee labor.”
Seven Apple Suppliers Linked to Forced Labour in China
According to records reviewed by both groups, groups of Uyghur Muslims were transported to the Xinjiang region to work for companies like Luxshare, which is a major supplier of Apple’s componentry.
They say that Avary Holding, a manufacturer of circuit boards used in Apple’s devices, added 400 Xinjiang labour workers to its books between 2019 and 2020 at one of its production facilities.
Shenzhen Deren Electronic, another manufacturer of cables and antennas for Apple’s iPhone lineup, also added around 1,000 workers sourced from the Xinjiang region in the past 12-months.
Both companies have denied reports of forced labour in its operations.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for independent reviews of Apple’s supply chain, as the company does not publicly list its component suppliers.
The Information says that in order to determine the use of forced labour in Apple’s supply chain, the publication gained access to official company documents, which were verified through employees of those production facilities.
Earlier this year, a report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute found that there were potential links between Apple and suppliers using forced Uyghur labour in the Xinjiang region and beyond.
Human Rights Watch says that there are as many as 1 million Uyghurs currently in detention and internment camps throughout China, with many of those detained forced to work for free.
China says that these camps are purely for the purpose of ‘reeducation,’ citing the threat of domestic terrorism stemming from Muslim extremists.