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Report: Apple used China slave labor

Just a week after Apple CEO Tim Cook vowed not to tolerate “modern slavery” in response to accusations that Apple sourced materials from forced labor camps in China’s Uyghur majority Xinjiang province, the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper reveals that Apple staff uniforms were sourced using cotton from there.

Shipping records confirm that Apple bought clothing from a company on the sanctioned list, Changji Esquel Textile, says the Guardian. The U.S. imposed sanctions on the company last month along with 10 other companies that exploit labor in Xinjiang.

“An Apple spokesman said the company had confirmed none of its suppliers currently source cotton from Xinjiang, but declined to comment on whether they had done so in the past,” says the report.

The relationship between Esquel and Apple may be severed currently, but that’s a very recent development. According to the Guardian, the ties between the two companies “stretches back years.”

Esquel of Hong Kong has denied any involvement with forced labor in Xinjiang or with Uyghurs forced to work in other parts of China.

“Esquel Group is deeply offended….We absolutely have not, do not, and will never use forced labor anywhere in our company,” the company said in a statement after the U.S. imposed sanctions.

In a March report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) 82 companies were identified “directly or indirectly benefiting from the use of Uyghur workers outside Xinjiang through potentially abusive labour transfer programs as recently as 2019.”

Apple was among the companies listed in the non-partisan report, along with well-known brands such as Nike, Nintendo and Polo Ralph Lauren.

“They’ve tainted supply chains, have tainted the very idea of Xinjiang,” said James Millward, professor of history at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. “It is such a deeply entrenched, and broadly enmeshed system of oppression they have created, that has involved hundreds of companies in China and outside of China.”

Millward estimates that at least a million Uyghurs are being forced into labor camps and held against their will.

Even when companies can certify that they aren’t using slave labor directly, they still use the region made possible by slave labor.

“They’re doing business with the province, they’re doing business with local administrations, they’re doing business with the XPCC [Communist Party], all of which are running concentration camps and all of which are involved in moving people in concentration camps into one kind of coerced or involuntary labor or another,” he told the Guardian.

And when consumers buy products from companies that appear on the ASPI list, so they are doing business with Communist slave drivers as well.

PHOTO: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

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