The New York Times just published Apple’s petty arrangements with Uyghur forced labor. And it’s not glorious.
It seems difficult to reconcile ethics and the law of the market for the American giants. Like Nike and Coca-Cola, Apple lobbied Congress to limit certain provisions of the U.S. bill that seeks to restrict the importation of goods made in Xinjiang, northeastern China, by forced laborers from the Uyghur Muslim minority. Across the Atlantic, the parliamentary debate is still ongoing.
Apple’s proposed changes to the bill have just been revealed. According to a document consulted by the New York Times, they would include the extension of certain deadlines to bring their production line into compliance, the disclosure of certain information about their suppliers only to Congress and not to the public, but also the obligation for Chinese entities to be ” designated by the United States government To help monitor or detain Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang. In short: more time, less transparency and federal customs clearance to continue manufacturing in China.
Faced with these revelations, Apple denied. On the contrary, the company said it supports the administration’s efforts to strengthen American regulations and its faith in the future law on the prevention of forced labor of Uyghurs (in English the ” Uyghur Forced Labor Disclosure Act of 2020 ») – against which the American press reports that Apple has also lobbied.
Nike, Coca-Cola and other companies and business groups are lobbying to water down sweeping legislation that would crack down on imports made with forced labor from China’s persecuted Muslim minoritieshttps://t.co/Hu9c7QjUyA
– Ana Swanson (@AnaSwanson) November 30, 2020
In a press release cited by the New York Times, Apple said it has the strongest supplier code of conduct in its industry and regularly assesses suppliers, including through impromptu audits.
“LChecking for the presence of forced labor is part of every supplier assessment we perform and any violation of our policies has immediate consequences, including business discontinuance », Explains the press release. ” Earlier this year, we conducted a detailed survey of our suppliers in China and found no evidence of forced labor on Apple’s production lines, and we continue to monitor this situation closely. “
But, the American daily recalls that it is very difficult to carry out these investigations because of the opacity in the Chinese business circles, and in particular concerning the Uyghurs.
80,000 Uyghurs transferred
In its report published in March 2020, theAustralian Strategic Policy Institute had identified Apple among 82 companies that had potentially benefited, directly or indirectly, from forced labor transfer programs linked to Xinjiang. According to the Australian NGO, O-Film Technology, a supplier of Apple but also of Microsoft and Google (among others) received at least 700 Uyghur workers as part of a program which was to ” gradually change their ideology “. The study also showed that another vendor working on behalf of Apple, Foxconn, benefited from similar employment programs.
In total, more than 80,000 Uyghurs were transferred between 2017 and 2019 from factories constituting the supply chains of these major international brands, according to the Australian NGO.