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After human rights violations by supplier O-Film Technology were alleged earlier in 2020, Apple launched an investigation and has now said that it has found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Well prior to the Department of Commerce statement on July 20, allegations of forced labor of Uighur Muslims at Apple supply chain partner O-Film Technology first surfaced earlier in 2020. In the wake of those allegations, Apple said it immediately launched an investigation.
The company deployed independent third-party investigators to O-Film facilities in March. It also carried out surprise audits in June and July. Throughout the process, it verified employee documents and interviewed workers in their own languages.
"Apple is dedicated to ensuring everyone in our supply chain is treated with dignity and respect," an Apple spokesperson told The New York Times reported on Wednesday. "We have found no evidence of any forced labor on Apple production lines and we plan to continue monitoring."
O-Film produces cameras, touchscreens and fingerprint sensors for the Cupertino tech giant. Just a few days before the Times report and Apple's statement, the U.S. Department of Commerce accused it of violating the rights of China's Uighur Muslim minority through forced labor.
The alleged campaign against the Uighurs in China kicked off at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the country. At the time, the country was said to be forcing Uighur Muslims to work at factories supplying parts and components to well-known companies like Apple, Nike and Samsung.
Earlier in July, The New York Times published the results of an investigation that uncovered evidence that Chinese companies were using a labor program for Uighurs to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for countries across the globe. A few days later, the U.S. imposed sanctions on 11 Chinese companies, including O-Film Tech.
This isn't the first time that Apple has had to investigate and weed out alleged human rights abuses in its supply chain. The most famous case thus far involved a suicide at Foxconn. The investigation's corrective actions resulted in Apple developing a program to generate an annual Supplier Responsibility Report.
In April, a cybersecurity firm also suggested that Uighur Muslims were under surveillance in China, partly through the use of iOS WebKit vulnerabilities. Apple has since patched those flaws.