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US accuses supplier for Amazon, Apple, Dell, GM, Microsoft of human rights abuses

The company, whose tech helps power phones, tablets and wearables, is accused of helping China's campaign against Uighurs.

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Chinese tech companies are being accused of aiding their government's human rights abuses.

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The US Department of Commerce added 11 Chinese companies to its list of firms implicated in human rights violations, including China's reported campaign against Muslim minority groups from an area of the country known as the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. At least one of those companies, Nanchang O-Film Tech, is listed as a supplier or undefined "partner" with nearly two dozen tech and car companies, including Amazon, Apple, Dell, GM and Microsoft.

The Commerce Department said the group of 11 companies that supported "mass arbitrary detention, forced labor, involuntary collection of biometric data and genetic analysis" targeted at Uighurs and other minority groups will face restrictions on US products, including technology.

"Beijing actively promotes the reprehensible practice of forced labor and abusive DNA collection and analysis schemes to repress its citizens," Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement Monday. "This action will ensure that our goods and technologies are not used in the Chinese Communist Party's despicable offensive against defenseless Muslim minority populations."

O-Film couldn't immediately be reached for comment. Amazon, Apple, Dell, GM and Microsoft either didn't respond to requests for comment or had no immediate comment when reached.

The government's move against O-Film, which says it makes cameras, touchscreens and fingerprint sensors, marks an escalation of the Trump administration's use of tech companies as part of its pressure campaign against the Chinese government. Last year during the holiday shopping season, President Donald Trump Trump threatened to raise tariffs on smartphones and other electronics assembled in China, only calling off the move shortly before the tariffs were implemented.

The Commerce Department's accusations undercut many tech company's commitments to supplier responsibility and human rights issues. 

Apple in particular is known for its annual supplier reports, which it began publishing after a series of suicides at one of its assemblers, Foxconn. What began in 2007 as a response to poor working conditions in an iPod manufacturing facility has grown into releases of 100-plus pages about the company's efforts to root out child labor, ensure the health and safety of employees and reduce toxic waste. The company also publishes a list of the 200 biggest suppliers it works with. As of 2019, the latest data Apple's published, that list included O-Film.

The Commerce Department said that since October 2019, it's named 48 companies it says are "engaged or enabling" the Chinese government's repression of Uighurs.

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