Apple urged to act over forced labour claims

17 May 2021

A US lawmaker has urged Apple boss Tim Cook to address alleged Uighur forced labour in the tech giant’s supply chain. 

In a letter to Cook, Ken Buck, a US Republican congressman, said he was “deeply concerned” over media reports that Apple suppliers were linked to forced labour in the Xinjiang region in China. 

An investigation by humans rights groups and The Information alleged there was evidence concerning seven firms that supply parts and services to Apple – Advanced-Connectek, Luxshare Precision Industry, Shenzhen Deren Electronic, Avary Holding, AcBel Polytech, CN Innovations, and Suzhou Dongshan Precision Manufacturing – linking them to forced labour. 

In the letter, Buck cited statements made by Cook from a House Judiciary Committee hearing in July 2020 where he called forced labour “abhorrent” and something the firm "would not tolerate”.

The congressman credited Apple for ending its relationship with supplier O-Film last year after the US Department of Commerce added the firm to a list of companies linked to human rights violations against Uighur people.

“However, considering your commitment under oath, I hope you can appreciate the seriousness of the allegations that your company’s supply chain sources from at least seven companies that use forced labour,” he added. 

Buck asked Cook to clarify “the nature of Apple’s business relationships with each of the seven companies”, as well as a “thorough description of the process by which Apple currently verifies its suppliers are not participating in human rights abuses such as forced labour”.

He also called on Cook to address how Apple intends to keep human rights abuses out of its supply chain in a written response by 15 June 2021.

Apple products have been linked to various labour abuses in its supply chain in the past including allegations of students being made to work illegally at Chinese factories and issues surrounding temporary workers, overtime and pay.

Earlier this year, the US announced it would detain all cotton products and tomato products produced in Xinjiang over forced labour concerns.

Apple has been contacted for comment.

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