A top supplier for Apple has been accused of using forced Muslim labor to manufacture screens for the iPhone, according to a report from a tech industry watchdog group.
The Washington Post reported that documents obtained by the Tech Transparency Project show Lens Technology, the longtime Apple supplier, uses Uighur workers transferred from labor camps in the Xinjiang region of western China in its factories.
The Chinese government is believed to be housing more than 1 million Uighurs in the Xinjiang region, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Some Uighurs are forced to live in indoctrination camps and work for companies that supply electronics equipment and cotton goods.
Chinese government authorities have also allegedly shipped Uighurs outside of the Xinjiang region to work in factories elsewhere in China.
Lens Technology is one of the longest standing suppliers for Apple’s iPhone. The company is also a supplier for electric car maker Tesla and Amazon, whose founder, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post.
Lens Technology is the fifth Apple supplier to be identified as relying on forced Uighur labor.
According to a report in March from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Chinese companies that supply Apple with its AirPods and OLED screens rely on forced labor.
The think tank estimates that more than 80,000 Uighurs were transferred between 2017 and 2019 to work in factories outside the Xinjian region.
“Our research shows that Apple’s use of forced labor in its supply chain goes far beyond what the company has acknowledged,” Katie Paul, the director of the Tech Transparency Project, told The Washington Post.
Josh Rosenstock, a spokesman for Apple, said that the company conducts rigorous audits of companies in its supply chain to ensure that its products aren’t derived from forced labor.
“Apple has zero tolerance for forced labor,” Rosenstock told The Post.
“Looking for the presence of forced labor is part of every supplier assessment we conduct, including surprise audits.”
“Any violation of our policies has immediate consequences, including possible business termination. As always, our focus is on making sure everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and we will continue doing all we can to protect workers in our supply chain,” Rosenstock added.
While Apple claims to oppose forced labor, the company is reportedly lobbying lawmakers in Washington to soften language in a bill aimed at preventing U.S. companies from relying on forced labor from China in its product supply chain.
Lobbying disclosure records filed with Congress show that Apple hired Fierce Government Relations to lobby lawmakers on the Uighur Labor Prevention Act.
Apple paid $90,000 to Fierce in the third quarter of this year, according to lobbying disclosure reports.
The Post reported last month that two congressional staffers said that lobbyists for Fierce oppose language in the bill in its current form.
The bill has heavy bipartisan support. It passed the House by a vote of 403-6 in September.
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