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Apple, Amazon, Tesla supplier accused of using Chinese forced labor; Apple rejects claim

Suppliers for tech giants are under increased scrutiny amid more reports of Chinese Uighur workers being forced into labor.

Angela Lang/CNET

Longtime Apple iPhone supplier Lens Technology, a maker of glass screens and coverings, has been accused of using forced Uighur labor in its factories, according to a report by The Washington Post, which cited documents from the human rights group Tech Transparency Project. The report noted that Lens Technology is a supplier to Tesla and Amazon, too.

Many companies' supply chains wind through Chinese factories, a reliance frequently complicated by the country's opaque, authoritarian government. China's Xinjiang region is home to the Uighur ethnic minority, a Muslim population being persecuted by the Chinese government. Human rights advocates have decried abusive practices that compel Uighur workers into concentration camps fronting as factories in the region -- or that force Uighurs to transfer to factories in other Chinese provinces. 

In a statement to The Washington Post, Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock said the company confirmed that Lens Technology hasn't received any labor transfers of Uighur workers from Xinjiang. Apple earlier this year ensured that none of its other suppliers are using Uighur labor transferred from Xinjiang, Rosenstock told the Post.

"Apple has zero tolerance for forced labor," Rosenstock said in his statement. "Looking for the presence of forced labor is part of every supplier assessment we conduct, including surprise audits. These protections apply across the supply chain, regardless of a person's job or location. Any violation of our policies has immediate consequences, including possible business termination. As always, our focus is on making sure everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and we will continue doing all we can to protect workers in our supply chain."

Amazon and Tesla didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

The documents uncovered by the Tech Transparency Project indicate thousands of Uighur workers from Xinjiang were sent to work for Lens Technology, according to the report. 

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