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Apple suppliers linked to Uyghur forced labor in new report

Several Apple suppliers may have used forced labor in China, according to The Information. Working with two human rights groups, the publication identified seven companies that supplied products or services to Apple and supported forced labor programs, according to statements made by the Chinese government. The programs target the country’s Muslim minority population, particularly Uyghurs living in Xinjiang.

Six of the seven suppliers were said to participate in work programs operated by the Chinese government, The Information reports, which human rights groups describe as frequently offering cover for forced labor. Workers can be jailed for refusing to join the work programs, the report says, and those enrolled in the programs are often moved far from their homes.

One of the suppliers operated in Xinjiang, the region of China predominantly populated by Uyghurs and where the most egregious human rights violations have reportedly taken place.

The companies supplied Apple with antennas, cables, and coatings, among other products and services, according to The Information.

Apple “found no evidence of forced labor anywhere we operate,” a spokesperson told The Information. Apple said it looks for forced labor as part of “every assessment” it conducts. “We will continue doing all we can to protect workers and ensure they are treated with dignity and respect,” the spokesperson said.

The problem is not Apple’s alone. The tech industry at large relies on suppliers in China, and The Information reports that these companies have also worked with Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Facebook, among others. (Amazon and Facebook told The Information they wouldn’t work with suppliers using forced labor; Google and Microsoft didn’t respond.)

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China’s forced work programs have been getting more attention over the past year, with new reports speaking to the growing scope of China’s oppressive practices in Xinjiang. BuzzFeed News reported finding more than 100 detention facilities located beside factories. In January, the Trump administration said China was “committed genocide against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.”

Apple’s supply chain has previously been linked to forced labor in China. The Tech Transparency Project said a glass supplier was using forced labor in December; Apple said it had seen no evidence of forced labor. In March, Apple cut ties with another supplier over allegations it was connected to coercive government labor programs.