Chen Guangcheng, the Chinese dissident whose flight to the U.S. in April strained U.S.- China relations, said Apple should take a more outspoken role in criticizing China for its one-child policy.
Apple, which hires manufacturers to assemble products such as the iPhone and iPad in China, can help stop forced abortions and other coercive population control measures, Chen said in an interview this week. The blind human-rights activist is betting that Apple’s presence in China and the popularity of its products there will help draw attention to the issue.
“Apple in China should take a very active role,” Chen said. “There’s a huge social responsibility for these international corporations like Apple.”
This marks the first time the civil rights activist has spoken out against his country’s forced birth-control policy since arriving in the U.S. The issue led to his arrest and jail term in China. Chen has received a fellowship to study at New York University after seeking help at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Chen and other China human-rights activists are seeking a meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook to discuss their concerns. They sent a letter to Cook last week, requesting Apple to adopt measures to end what they say are coercive family planning measures in its factories.
China’s one-child policy, which was introduced in the late 70s and made mandatory in 1980, restricts most married couples to having one child in order to control population growth in the country of over 1.3 billion.
Migrant women are required to provide certificates showing their childbearing and birth control status to the provincial government where they work. Employers are required to play a role in family planning and accept government supervision.
Apple has said that 24 facilities it has audited conducted pregnancy tests of female workers, and that 56 didn’t have policies and procedures that prohibit practices based on pregnancy. Apple says it has classified these practices as discrimination, even if allowed by local law, and that suppliers have stopped the screenings. Apple says it will stop doing business with suppliers that can’t meet this code of conduct.