According to the latest news, a major Chinese supplier of consumer electronics components, Lens Technology has been accused of using forced Uighur labour workers from the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, China. The report originated from the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) and it was shared with The Verge.
Note that Lens Technology is a gadget glass supplier to companies like Amazon, Apple, and Tesla. As per the report, the company has used thousands of such workers as part of the Chinese government’s ongoing detention camp and forced labour campaign against the Uighur minority. Note that this was first reported on The Washington Post on Tuesday.
TTP’s investigation cites media reports from Global Times of China that show Lens Technology was sent thousands of workers from Xinjiang to work in its factories in the Hunan province as part of a “poverty alleviation” program carried out by the Xinjiang–Suzhou Chamber of Commerce. TTP has shared some government records too. TTP has also cites an online video titled “Lens Tech Uyghurs celebrating National Day” which shows hundreds of workers sitting on the ground outside a building with banners revealing the workers’ Xinjiang origin and their employment at Lens Technology.
When asked, Apple has straight away denied any role in China’s forced labour programs instead gave a statement that it regularly investigates its suppliers as part of its auditing process and has seen no evidence that Lens Technology has used such workers on Apple production lines.
Apple spokesperson Josh Rosenstock stated “Apple has zero-tolerance for forced labour. Looking for the presence of forced labour is part of every supplier assessment we conduct, including surprise audits. Earlier this year we confirmed that none of our suppliers has Uighur workers from ‘pairing programs’ from Xinjiang on any Apple production lines.”
According to extensive reporting on the crisis, many of these workers previously lived in indoctrination camps and are forced to renounce Islam and learn Mandarin before they were transported to various factories throughout China.
However, the TTP report is consistent with its claim because it only purports to show Xinjiang workers at Lens without any mention of Apple. On the other hand, companies like Amazon and Tesla were not immediately available for a comment regarding their contract with Lens Technology.
On Monday, a major BuzzFeed News investigation was published further revealing the extent of China’s campaign against the Uighur minority. The investigation also cites an Australian Strategic Policy Institute report identifying nearly 100 companies with suppliers that have used Uighur workers outside the Xinjiang region. The list includes other high profile brands like H&M, Nike, Nintendo, and others.
According to a separate report from The Washington Post published last month, the TTP report conveys that Apple is warranted because of the company played a role in lobbying against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, a bill that would sanction US tech companies for connections to the Chinese government’s forced labor campaign.