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HP places new sanctions on student labor in China -- report

The company has apparently sent new rules to its suppliers that are designed to protect student interns and improve their working conditions.

Hewlett-Packard has placed new rules on its China-based suppliers over how they handle student labor, according to a new report.

The company's new rules, which were reportedly given to suppliers this morning, require that all student workers join the supply line on their own accord, The New York Times is reporting. The rules, which the Times obtained and published last night, also require that students have the ability to "leave work at any time upon reasonable notice without repercussions."

Student labor is common in China. Suppliers across the country use students to aid their efforts in manufacturing electronics from a host of vendors, including HP.

Back in September, news outlet Shanghai Daily reported that Foxconn, which is one of HP's suppliers, was using student labor in the assembly of iPhones. Samsung was hit hard by labor group China Labor Watch, which claimed that its factories saw "abuse of student and labor dispatch workers." Both Foxconn and Samsung denied reports of improper regulation of student workers.

It's not illegal to hire student workers in China. In fact, many companies, including Foxconn, hire students in internship programs. The trouble occurs when students in some supplier facilities are forced to work on the production line and do not actually learn anything to help them in their careers.

To address that, HP's policy also requires suppliers "complement the primary area of study" for a student, according to the Times.

HP is by no means alone in its desire to address student labor issues in China. In Apple's supplier responsibility report it released last month (PDF), the company acknowledged that some student-worker efforts in China are "poorly run, and the cyclical nature of internship work makes it difficult to catch problems." This year, Apple will place new requirements on suppliers so it "can monitor this issue more carefully."

CNET has contacted HP for comment on its new student rules. We will update this story when we have more information.