Major tech firms, including Microsoft, Sony, Samsung and LG, are connected to the use of Uyghur forced labor through their supply chains.
At least 400 Uyghur workers were found to have been transferred from Xinjiang, also known as East Turkestan, to Universal Electronics Inc’s plant as part of an worker-transfer agreement between the U.S. remote-control maker and Chinese authorities in Xinjiang.
This is the first confirmed instance of an American company participating in what many governments — including that of the United States — and human rights groups have recognized as forced labor. Reuters found that Universal Electronics Inc (UEI), a Nasdaq-listed firm, arranged for hundreds of Uyghur workers to be transported to its plant in the southern Chinese city of Qinzhou. The company has supplied equipment and software to a number of major tech companies, including Sony, Samsung, LG, Microsoft and more. None of those companies have released an official response addressing UEI directly.
It was also found that Xinjiang authorities paid for a charter flight that delivered the Uyghur workers under police escort from Xinjiang’s Hotan city to the plant. Even at the U.S company’s plant, the Uyghur workers are forced to work in isolation, eat and sleep in segregated quarters and are constantly under police guard with restricted freedom of movement.
A UEI spokesperson stated that the company does not conduct due diligence on where and how the Uyghur workers are trained in Xinjiang. The deal was brokered by a third-party agent working with the Xinjiang government, who also vetted the arrangement.
A U.S State Department spokesperson declined to comment on UEI, specifically, but stated that the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act “criminalizes the act of knowingly benefiting, financially or by receiving anything of value, from participation in a venture, where the defendant knew or recklessly disregarded the fact that the venture engaged in forced labor.”
Since 2017, the Uyghur population is acknowledged by many world agencies and entities to have been the target of widespread persecution and oppression under the Communist Party-ruled Chinese government, amounting to genocide. It is believed that up to two million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs and members of other Muslim groups, may be currently detained in over 200 re-education camps constructed by the Chinese government across the autonomous region.
British barrister Sir Geoffrey Nice launched the Uyghur Tribunal, which held two hearings this year, allowing dozens to testify to a variety of the abuses that took place throughout the re-education camps and the rest of the region at the hands of Chinese authorities. These include mass torture, sexual assault, forced sterilization, arbitrary arrest and detention, mass surveillance, intimidation by government officials and forced child separation.