Brands including Apple and BMW accused of using Chinese forced labour

Apple, BMW, Nike and Huawei named among global brands accused by the Tories of using Uyghur forced labour in China

  • Report claimed thousands of Uyghur Muslims transported to Chinese factories
  • Probe by Conservative Party Human Rights Commission made the accusations
  • It said Uyghurs are working in ‘under conditions that suggest forced labour’

Global brands such as Apple and BMW are among firms accused of getting supplies from factories using forced labour in a report on China.

The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission report said that tens of thousands of Uyghur Muslims had been transported to factories across the country to work.

The report noted that one of the ‘most shocking new developments’ in the last five years was that forced labour was now used ‘throughout China in factories which are part of the supply chain of major international corporations’.

It also noted that it was ‘beyond dispute that UK consumption is driving this (state-sponsored slavery) practice. This can no longer be tolerated’.

The report said that the Commission was ‘gravely concerned that such modern slavery practices are so endemic in the supply chains of major British and international brands’.

It went on: ‘Under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour, Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen.’

Vicky Xiuzhong Xu and Nathan Ruser, who were authors of a report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) about the forced labour of Uyghurs, gave evidence to the Commission in an online hearing.

The Conservative Party Human Rights Commission report said that tens of thousands of Uyghur Muslims had been transported to factories across the country to work. Pictured: Uyghur Muslims in detention


Global brands such as Apple and BMW are among firms accused of getting supplies from factories using forced labour in a report on China. Pictured: Stock images

They said they had discovered in 2019 that Uyghurs were being transported from Xinjang to other provinces to work.

Xu and Ruser said ‘it is a policy of the central government’ that resulted in ‘tens of thousands of people pushed out of their homes every year and sent to eastern provinces to work in the supply chains of international brands.’

They added that in the factories workers were subjected to the conditions of forced labour, having to work ‘under heavy surveillance’ and in the few hours of free time were ‘compelled to attend Mandarin Chinese language classes and political indoctrination classes’.

ASPI identified 27 factories in nine Chinese provinces that are using Uyghur labour transferred from Xinjang since 2017.

The report notes how some, such as Taekwang Shoes Company factory in Qingdoo, Shandong province, were ‘equipped with watchtowers, razor wire, and inward-facing barbed-wire fences’.

The movements of workers were ‘closely monitored by a police station at the side gate equipped with facial recognition cameras’.

The APSI report also cited the fact that the Public Security Bureau and the United Front Work Department have ‘representatives stationed inside factories like Taekwong to report daily on the “thoughts” of the Uyghur workers, manage any disputes and guard against spontaneous “mass instances”‘.

In their evidence to the commission, they also reveal how human resources companies received payment for every Uyghur transferred so they are incentivised to be part of the process.

A Xinjiang provincial government notice from 2018 said for every rural ‘surplus labourer’ transferred to work in another part of Xinjiang for over nine months, the organiser was awarded 20 Yuan (£2.30). 

The report said that the Commission was ‘gravely concerned that such modern slavery practices are so endemic in the supply chains of major British and international brands’. Pictured: Stock image

Samsung and Nike were also among those accused of using workers ‘under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour’. Pictured: Stock image

A BMW spokesman said: ‘Sadly, the CPHRC did not contact us before writing their report and so we are not clear about the allegation they are referring to.

‘However, as a matter of principle the BMW Group contractually obliges all 1st-tier (direct) suppliers to comply with human rights, labour and social standards. 

‘These suppliers must demand these same requirements from their sub-suppliers.’

A Volkswagen spokeswoman said no products on sale in Europe are made in China, adding: ‘We represent and live our standards and values in China and ensure that our work with all Volkswagen Groups factories, distribution companies and suppliers is based on our principles: respect for minorities, employee representation, as well as social and labour standards. 

‘Our Business Partner Code of Conduct is contractually binding for our direct suppliers.’

Nike said: ‘We are concerned about reports of forced labor in, and connected to, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). 

‘Nike does not source products from the XUAR and we have confirmed with our contract suppliers that they are not using textiles or spun yarn from the region.

‘The Nike Code of Conduct and Code Leadership Standards have requirements prohibiting any type of prison, forced, bonded or indentured labor, including detailed provisions for freedom of movement and prohibitions on discrimination based on ethnic background or religion. ‘

An Apple spokeswoman said: ‘Apple has zero tolerance for forced labor. 

‘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. 

‘Earlier this year we confirmed that none of our suppliers have Uighur workers from ”pairing programs” from Xinjiang on any Apple production lines.’ 

A Gap spokesman said: ‘We can confirm that we do not source any garments from Xinjiang. We also recognize that a significant amount of the world’s cotton supply is grown and spun there. 

‘Therefore, we have taken steps to better understand how our global supply chain may be indirectly impacted, including working with our suppliers and actively engaging with industry trade groups, expert stakeholders, and other partners to learn more and advance our shared commitment to respecting human rights.’

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