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Are Apple supplying companies forcing Uighurs into forced labor?

Lens Technology – a supplier to Apple – has been accused of using forced labor in its manufacturing facilities, adding a new audit to Apple’s human rights record in China.

According to Washington Post documents for the Technical Transparency Project; Thousands of Uyghur workers from the Muslim-majority Xinjiang region have been sent to work for Lens Technology.

A spokesman for Apple denied the report, indicating – in a statement – that Lens Technology had not received any labor transfers for Uyghur workers from Xinjiang, and added that the company had a zero-tolerance policy for forced labor.

The spokesperson said, “Any violation of our policies has immediate consequences, including termination of potential work. Our focus is on ensuring that everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and we continue to do everything in our power to protect workers in our supply chain.”

However, the Technology Transparency Project cast doubts on Apple’s claims to closely monitor the supply chain, claiming that overt evidence of forced labor was found online.

An article in a Chinese news agency reported that Uyghur workers sent to the Lens Technology Factory were among the first passengers to travel on the chartered flight after China shut down civil aviation during the pandemic.

Another article described in detail how labor transfer programs sent workers to Lens Technology facilities in Hunan.

The documents found by the Technical Transparency Project do not include details of the specific working conditions at the Lens Technology facilities, which employ about 100,000 workers.

Lens Technology supplies lenses and related glass components to Apple for use in iPhones (Getty Images)

Lens Technology has a long history of supplying lenses and glass-related components related to Apple for use in iPhones, and the company also supplies lenses to other tech companies, such as Tesla and Amazon.

The company joins several other Apple supply partners who have allegedly benefited from forced labor in China.

And earlier in 2020, Apple was reported to have abandoned the supplier O-Film after he was accused of human rights violations. Apple says it conducts ongoing reviews of its supply chain, and these investigations have uncovered no evidence of human rights violations.

Sources said that Apple is one of several companies that are lobbying against a bill that would prevent US companies from importing goods made through forced Chinese labor.

A report released earlier this December claimed that Apple had ignored labor issues in its supply chain.

China considers the labor transfer program as a measure to alleviate poverty, but Uyghur workers have told activists that they have been given a choice between getting a job at a remote facility or being sent to detention centers.

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