Report: Apple and dozens of other companies profit from forced Chinese labor

China's Uyghur population works in fear making our gadgets, clothes, and cars.


The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a U.S. State Department-backed entity, released a damning report on Monday. The report, confirmed by The Washington Post, alleges the Chinese government transfers Uyghurs and other minorities from the western Xinjiang province to factories across the country.

During the day, they toil over components of Nikes and iPhones, and at night they are “reeducated.” Reeducation entails Mandarin classes, a ban on practicing any part of Islam, and other ideological lessons. Between 2017 and 2019, under this premise, the government sent an estimated 80,000 people to factories connected to 83 international companies.

Forced labor — Formerly, China detained Uyghurs in reeducation internment camps in an effort to forcibly assimilate the mostly Muslim minority population. Facing criticism, it appears the government started to transition away from open camps to forced factory work. Last year, Chinese officials announced most Uyghurs had “graduated,” but this report suggests many were just transferred.

Barbed-wire fences and omnidirectional cameras at Qingdao Taekwang Shoes Co. factory, manufacturer of 8 million pairs of Nikes annually.The Washington Post/The Washington Post/Getty Images

In the factories, long hours and constant surveillance are normal. The workers are intimidated into falling in line with threats of returning to internment camps or having their families detained. Their segregated dormitories are occasionally raided, and if a Quran is found, they face 3 to 5 years in an internment camp. Pouring salt in the wound, finding halal food and buying basic necessities in these Mandarin-dominant areas creates additional challenges.

The Apple of this report’s eye — Dozens of companies were called upon to investigate their supply chain connections to these factories, but Apple received special attention in the report. Four factories connected to Apple’s supply chain were implicated, including Foxconn’s Zhengzhou facility which produces half the iPhones in the world. Companies that make AirPods, as well as the camera modules for the iPhone 8 and X, also use factories “employing” Uyghurs.

Apple CEO Tim Cook at selfie-camera manufacturer O-Film’s Guangzhou factory in 2017.O-Film

Call to action — Instead of boycotting or ceasing operations with the involved factories, the authors of the report are pushing for Chinese ratification of international labor laws, companies to launch investigations into their supply chains, and global restriction of trade for products created with forced labor. On the consumer side, the authors encourage you to push for greater supply chain transparency and new commitments from your favorite brands to not use forced or coerced labor.

You can find the full list of affected companies below, broken down by industry.

Tech/manufacturing — Acer, Amazon, Apple, ASUS, BAIC Motor, BMW, Bombardier, Bosch, BYD, Candy, Cisco, Dell, Electrolux, Founder Group, General Electric, Google, Haier, Hisense, Hitachi, HP, HTC, Huawei, iFlyTek, Japan Display Inc., Lenovo, LG, Meizu, Microsoft, Mitsumi, Nintendo, Nokia, Oculus, Oppo, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, Siemens, Sony, TDK, Tsinghua Tongfang, Toshiba, Vivo, Xiaomi, and ZTE.

Fashion retail — Abercrombie & Fitch, Adidas, Calvin Klein, Carter’s, Cerutti 1881, Fila, Gap, Hart Schaffner Marx, H&M, Jack & Jones, L.L.Bean, Lacoste, Li-Ning, Mayor (Youngor), Nike, The North Face, Polo Ralph Lauren, Puma, Skechers, Tommy Hilfiger, Uniqlo, Victoria’s Secret, Zara, and Zegna.

Automotive/transportation — Alstom, Changan Automobile, CRRC, GAC Group, Geely Auto, General Motors, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, MG, Mitsubishi, Roewe, SAIC Motor, SGMW, and Volkswagen.