MORRISVILLE – A new report is raising questions about Lenovo and the use of forced labor among manufacturers in its supply chain. This is the third report dating back to March in which some Lenovo suppliers were cited as being involved in use of Uyghur Muslims, the latest news saying the workers were “working in inhumane conditions.”
The news comes just days after Wake County schools awarded Lenovo a contract for $24 million to provide some 85,000 laptops to students.
Lenovo is the world’s top seller of PCs.
The Intercept report Friday that “Shipping records show that since the start of the pandemic, Lenovo has imported an estimated 258,000 laptops from a Chinese manufacturer that has participated in a troubling labor scheme and been singled out by the U.S. government for violating human rights.”
The company is Hefei Bitland, which was among 11 Chinese firms sanctioned by the US government in July over human rights violations.
Forbes noted that Hefei Bitland is a “high-performance graphics card maker for laptops as well as a manufacturer of LCM modules. The main clients include Lenovo, HP and Haier.”
Lenovo, which operates dual headquarters in Morrisville and Beijing, declined comment to The Intercept about the report. Most Lenovo operations are based in China where the company was launched in 1984.
Last week, The News and Observer in Raleigh reported that US sanctions were delaying delivery of laptops to some school districts.
“The Lenovo computers were made by the manufacturer Hefei Bitland, which participates in a Chinese government program to provide factories with cheap labor from persecuted Uyghurs,” The Intercept said.
“Some of the computers included lightweight Chromebooks bound for public schools in the U.S. — and some were delivered even after the company was placed on a government list restricting trade. After they arrived at port, sources say, Lenovo apparently removed a portion of the computers from distribution; over the past few weeks, multiple school districts have reported holdups in their orders of Lenovo Chromebooks. But other computers shipped since the start of the pandemic made it through to American customers, according to a distributor and to labor advocates who analyzed shipping data for The Intercept.”
Scott Nova, executive director of the Workers Rights Consortium reviewed shipping records and pointed out: ““Whatever happens with the recently arrived shipments, hundreds of thousands of notebooks made for Lenovo by Hefei Bitland, and produced while transported Uyghur labor was present at its production facility, have already been bought by individuals and institutions in the U.S.”
The new report follows two others in March that said Lenovo and Apple are among several high tech firms facing questions about the use of forced labor in their supply chains.
In response from an inquiry from WRAL TechWire about an Associated Press report and a similar one from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Lenovo said through a spokesperson that it was taking action.
“Lenovo holds all of its suppliers and vendors to high standards of ethics, quality and safety for any goods and services provided to our company. Likewise, we require compliance with all relevant laws, rules, and regulations for the respective countries where they do business, whether on our behalf or as standard business operations. Any allegations of impropriety or violations of these policies are taken seriously and investigated with immediate action taken wherever necessary,” said Lenovo’s Charlotte West.
“In line with our supplier code of conduct, all suppliers are audited every two years by an independent, third-party RBA approved auditor. O-Film was last audited in 2018 by the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA), scoring very highly. It was due to be audited again in May 2020, however this has been brought forward together with a specific investigation of the ASPI report findings.”