Apple logo on iPhone 6sSource: iMore

What you need to know

  • No fewer than seven Apple suppliers have been accused of using forced labor.
  • The suppliers are accused of operating little sort of a prison in Xinjiang, China.

Apple finds itself in the middle of another forced labor storm after no fewer than seven of its suppliers were accused of using forced labor in Xinjiang, China.

In a report by The Information, accusations include factories that resemble prisons including guard towers.

Advanced-Connectek has made unglamorous but critical computer components for Apple for more than a decade. For two of those years, it operated a factory inside an industrial park on the edge of the deserts of Xinjiang, a region of western China populated by a predominantly Muslim group known as Uyghurs. The industrial park is surrounded by walls and fences with only one way in or out.

This isn't the first time that particular supplier has been in the spotlight – photos taken in December 2018 included some troubling sights – including barbed-wire topped walls and the aforementioned guard towers.

Apple suppliers linked to suspected forced labor, Advanced-Connectek is the only one that operated a facility in Xinjiang. The plant was located about 15 miles from the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar in a remote location, inside one of many low-slung buildings with distinctive blue roofs, which are highly visible on satellite photos. A fence surrounds the Artux Kunshan Industrial Park and the single entrance is guarded by a checkpoint. Next door is the Artux City Vocational Skills Education Training Service Center, which is surrounded by barbed-wire topped walls punctuated by guard towers, according to reporting and photos taken by the Associated Press in December 2018.

Apple, in a statement provided to The Information, was quick to say that it carries out assessments of its suppliers and that forced labor is one of the aspects investigated during those assessments.

In a statement for this article, Apple said that "looking for the presence of forced labor is part of every assessment we conduct in every country where we do business." It added that "despite the restrictions of Covid-19, we undertook further investigations and found no evidence of forced labor anywhere we operate. We will continue doing all we can to protect workers and ensure they are treated with dignity and respect."

The full report, while paywalled, is absolutely worth a read. It's also notable that many of the firms mentioned in the report also produce parts used by companies like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.