A well-known Chinese company, Lens Technology, which supplies consumer electronics components, is one of the recent additions to the list of companies accused of using forced labor in its manufacturing facilities. A report from the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) has accused the company of using forced Uighur labor workers from the predominantly Muslim region of Xinjiang, China. The report says that Lens Technology, a gadget glass supplier to companies like Amazon, Apple, and Tesla – has used thousands of Uighur workers as a part of the Chinese government’s ongoing detention and forced labor campaign against the Uighur minority.
Recently, Chinese media lashed out at India over the violence that took place at Foxconn’s Wistron plant in Kolar, Karnataka. Workers at the plant were fed up with delayed and underpaid wages and ransacked the factory, destroying equipment and burning vehicles. After this incident, the Chinese Global Times, an English language mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, used the incident to gloat and to warn other multinational companies against moving to India.
Global Times quoted Chinese netizens who asked Foxconn to return to China and said, “Factories in China are the safest to invest in. The probability of smashing and burning in China is low”. Soon after these comments were made, TTP shared its report and Katie Paul, director of the Tech Transparency Project said, “Our research shows that Apple’s use of forced labor in its supply chain goes far beyond what the company has acknowledged”.
Apple spokesperson, Josh Rosenstock said that the company has confirmed that Lens Technology has not received any labor transfers of Uighur workers from Xinjiang. He said that Apple, earlier this year ensured that none of its other suppliers are using Uighur labor transferred from Xinjiang. He also said that “Apple has zero tolerance for forced labor,” and that “any violation of our policies has immediate consequences, including possible business termination”.
When asked questions about the said incident, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing called forced labor in China “nonexistent” and accused people with “ulterior motives” of fabricating it. They also said that hired auditors have looked into companies and found no trace of forced labor. It is now commonly known that, Xinjiang, in Western China which borders Afghanistan, Pakistan and other Muslim-majority countries, is facing a brutal crackdown by China’s government, which has placed more than a million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps or forced them to work in factories.
There are no exact details for the working conditions of these workers because the Chinese government does not permit human rights groups to enter the country to interview laborers or observe conditions. Information is collected through conduct of interviews of people who have escaped that system and have lived there.