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Apple under fire for factory conditions as iPhone launches

HONG KONG: A labour rights group marked the launch of Apple’s latest iPhone Friday with a report accusing one of the smartphone giant’s Chinese suppliers of exploiting factory workers.

Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) say Lens Technology, which makes touchscreen glass, used forced overtime, withheld wages and risked workers’ health after a months-long investigation into three of its factories.

Company founder Zhou Qunfei, herself a former factory worker, became China’s richest woman after Lens Technology’s debut on the Shenzhen stock exchange in March.

As the iPhone 6 went on sale in markets including Hong Kong, Japan and mainland China on Friday, SACOM called for Apple to “apply immediate measures to rectify exploitations in its supply chain”.

“We urge Apple Inc. to fulfil its corporate responsibility… to give workers a workplace with dignity and respect,” a statement said.

The allegations involve employees working for a month without a day off, wages being withheld for weeks and the company failing to pay social security.

“Dust, noise, polluted water and chemical substances are common problems on the shop floor,” it added, with management “ignoring if workers were well-protected”.

It sent undercover workers into factories, as well as interviewing workers off-site.

SACOM was to deliver its new report on Friday to Apple and Lens Technology, which is based in the southern Chinese province of Hunan.

Around 10 protesters gathered outside one of Apple’s largest stores in Hong Kong on Friday morning, holding giant phones with the slogan “Throw Away The Bad Apple”.

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