Back last summer Patently Apple posted a report titled "Apple Denies a report that one of their Chinese Suppliers are using Uighur slave labor on Production Lines." At the time, a BBC investigative report had claimed that corporate giants including Nike and Apple are facing growing calls to cut ties with suppliers alleged to be using "forced labor" from China's Uighur people. Yet up to last summer, Apple had responded by stating that it had investigated the claims and "found no evidence of any forced labor on Apple production lines" and plan to continue monitoring the issue. Yet months later Apple was forced to deal with the matter and announced that it had cut off China's OFilm over using slave labor.
Today, The Information news site is claiming that there's more than a single Apple supplier engaged in forced labor involving Uighurs.
The report states that "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.
And next to the park was a large compound identified by a satellite imagery researcher as a detention center where the factory workers lived. The researcher, Nathan Ruser, from an Australian think tank, said “almost no other factories in Xinjiang have these characteristics except for industrial parks where there is detainee labor.”
The Information and human rights groups have found seven companies supplying device components, coatings and assembly services to Apple that are linked to alleged forced labor involving Uyghurs and other oppressed minorities in China.
At least five of those companies received thousands of Uyghur and other minority workers at specific factory sites or subsidiaries that did work for Apple, the investigation found.
The revelation stands in contrast to Apple’s assertions over the past year that it hasn’t found evidence of forced labor in its supply chain." For more on this, read The Information's full report (Note: paywall report).
Although it took time, Apple dealt with OFilm for using slave labor and is likely follow through with more expulsions from its supply chain once bona fide evidence has been confirmed. Investigative reporting may have played a part in pushing Apple to dig deeper when it came to OFilm and perhaps this latest report will achieve the same result.
In my opinion, Apple wouldn't knowingly continue to work with suppliers using slave labor. Due to COVID-19 some investigations may be taking longer than usual and some Chinese companies may be taking advantage of this current circumstance.