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Forced labour linked to console production

bonded labour

By Hans Leguízamo Romero. Peninsula 360 Press [P360P].

During a general meeting with investors in early July, Nintendo was questioned about a BBC report based on research from the Australian Policy Strategy Institute (ASPI)The company was linked to the alleged use of forced labor in its production line in China. 

In this regard, Shuntaro Furukawa, director of Nintendo, confirmed that some of the factories mentioned in the report are part of the production chain of his company, but reiterated that "they are not aware that forced labor is used in the manufacture of their products," he said. He assured that his company has monitoring protocols in place to ensure that this does not happen and added that if there was a risk of forced labor being used by any of their contractors, they would stop doing business with them immediately. 

The problem of forced labor is not limited to Nintendo; an investigation by ASPI mentions 82 international brands, including Sony and Microsoft, creators of the Playstation and XBox consoles, respectively. The document also notes that these emporiums may not be aware of such a situation; in some cases, they have stated that they have terminated relationships with suppliers suspected of engaging in this practice. However, the research points out that neither company was able to ensure that there are no cases of forced labor deep in their production chains.

How big a problem is forced labor?

According to ASPI's research on local sources and records of workers' applications from the same Chinese companies, it is estimated that around 80,000 Uighurs were transferred from the Xinjiang region to factories across the country. This is part of a re-education program devised by the Communist Party aimed at the "assimilation" of minorities and "religious extremists" to the culture and values imposed by the party.

These workers have limited transit rights, are prohibited from religious practices, live in segregated dormitories, and are subjected to ideological training outside of work hours.

How are video game companies involved?

ASPI's investigations point to Chinese companies that solicited or have records of "state-funded" workers. Likewise, these companies publicly display their relationships with international companies to which they manufacture parts or complete products.

Such is the case of Hubei Yihong Precision Manufacturing Co. Ltd, a subsidiary of Dongguan Yidong Electronic Co. Ltd, which states on its website that it provides electronic parts and battery covers for various companies including Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. ASPI records that 105 workers from Xinjiang were transferred to Hubei Yihong factories on May 17, 2018. Following the publication of this investigation, Hubei Yihong deleted its website and issued a statement denying its involvement in the use of forced labor.

Another case is the company Foxconn Technology which is one of the largest electronics manufacturing companies in the world. Foxconn supplies electronics brands which again include Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. In 2019, ASPI reports that 560 workers from Xinjiang were transferred to Foxconn facilities.

O-Film Technology Co. Ltd is a company engaged in the production of compact camera modules, touch screens, components for smartphones and laptops. O-Films official website lists Microsoft and Sony as partners. In May 2017, 1,200 people were taken out of Hotan prefecture, outside Xinjiang, and 700 of them were brought to Jiangxi to work at O-Film.

The evidence provided by ASPI is pretty clear: the companies that produce the consoles we play games on are either unaware that there is a possibility of forced labor being used in their products, or they are aware of it and choose to ignore it. Abuses against minorities in China are real and are linked to the production of our favorite products.

Shouldn't suspicion of the use of forced labor be enough to cut off trade relations with these factories and with China? Apparently for the big players in the video game industry it is more important to cut a few cents in the production of electronics than the dignity and freedom of human beings.

You may be interested in: Paradox of pandemic video game industry: historic profits amid massive layoffs

Hans Leguízamo
Hans Leguízamo
Audio and video coordinator of Peninsula 360 Press. Sociologist and researcher specialized in electronic entertainment, videogames and consumer rights.


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