Reggie Littlejohn joins Chen Guangcheng in Challenging Apple: Letter

Reggie Littlejohn, President of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, has joined forces with blind activist Chen Guangcheng, human rights activist Andrew Duncan, and China Aid President Bob Fu, in sending a letter to Apple President Tim Cook, concerning Apple products made in China.  Reggie Littlejohn stated, “We are challenging Apple to assure customers that products made in China are not made in facilities that practice coercive family planning or stifle free speech.  According to Apple’s own 2012 internal investigation, 24 Apple facilities conducted pregnancy tests, and 56 facilities did not have policies and procedures that prohibit discriminatory practices based on pregnancy.  Apple says that it has required that these practices must stop.  Apple, however,  has been auditing its facilities since 2006.  Why, then, is it still the case that pregnancy testing is reported as rampant? Either Apple’s requirement that these practices must stop is new, or its policies to implement it are ineffectual.”

Littlejohn continued, “We want to know what has happened to women at Apple factories when they have been found to be pregnant without a birth permit.  Have they been referred for a forced abortion or involuntary sterilization?  With the one child/forced abortion law in place, how can Apple assure consumers that its products are made in facilities free of coercive population control?

“We are also asking Apple to take the lead in endorsing our ‘Principles of Corporate Responsibility,’ in which multinational corporations will refuse to comply with coercive family planning practices at their facilities in China.”

To date, the group has received no response from Apple.

Bloomberg has written about this action challenging Apple:

Apple Urged by China Dissident to Act Against One Child Rule

Below is the text of the original letter that went out to Tim Cook.  Following that is the text of the “Principles for Corporate Social Responsibility in China Concerning Coercive Family Planning.”

August 30, 2012


Dear Mr. Cook,

We write concerning Apple’s business enterprise in China as it may intersect with Chinese human rights abuses perpetrated in the workplace – specifically, forced abortion and coercive family planning.

As you may be aware, one of the signatories of this letter, blind forced abortion opponent Chen Guangcheng, escaped house arrest earlier this year in China and subsequently made his way to the United States Embassy in Beijing, and eventually was allowed to leave China to study law in the United States.  Due to the persecution of his family who were left behind (including a trumped up murder charge against his nephew), Mr. Chen felt compelled to accept the invitation of United States lawmakers on August 1, 2012 to visit the U.S. Capitol.

During that visit, Speaker of the House Boehner (later reaffirmed by House Minority Leader Pelosi) stated that it was time to “hold the Chinese government to account” on freedom of speech and the “reprehensible” one child/forced abortion policy. Here is a link to these speeches:

That same day Mr Chen met with senior staff members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee along with Senators Kerry and Cornyn, who have both also taken a strong leadership position in support of Mr. Chen and Chinese human rights.

The bipartisan statement regarding “holding the Chinese government to account” was significant. Current United States foreign policy towards China has purposely separated human rights issues from economic issues.  China’s human rights record has deteriorated.  As reported in this New York Times article, Apple has been working to resolve human rights issues in connection with Foxconn (Hon Hai).

Human rights can no longer be separated from economic issues.  With China’s current economic slow-down and a major transition in senior leadership on the horizon, we believe that we are entering a window of opportunity to have a positive impact on human rights.  With Congressional leadership support, the policy of separating our economic relationship from human rights in China must change.

As you know from Apple’s own internal investigation, “24 [Apple] facilities conducted pregnancy tests, and 56 facilities did not have policies and procedures that prohibit discriminatory practices based on pregnancy.”

Apple’s response states that the company has required that these practices must stop.  According to the New York Times report above, Apple has been auditing its facilities since 2006.  Why, then, is it still the case that pregnancy testing is reported as rampant in Apple’s 2012 Supplier Responsibility Progress Report? Either Apple’s requirement that these practices must stop is new, or its policies to implement it are ineffectual.

When women are found to be pregnant without a birth permit, are they referred for a forced abortion?  With the one child/forced abortion law in place, how can Apple assure consumers that its products are made in facilities free of coercive population control? No matter what one’s personal view is on abortion –forced abortion is unacceptable.

Below is an excerpt from the September 22, 2011 Congressional testimony of Liu Ping, who was the victim of forced abortion at the hands of the Family Planning Commission in her factory:

My factory’s Family Planning Commission used three levels of control:  at the factory level, in the factory clinic and on the factory floor. There was a system of  collective punishment: if one worker violated the rules, all would be punished. Workers monitored each other. Women of reproductive age accounted for 60% of my factory floor.  Colleagues were suspicious and hostile to each other because of the One-Child Policy. Two of my pregnancies were reported by my colleagues to the Family Planning Commission.  When discovered, pregnant women would be dragged to undergo forced abortions—there simply was no other choice. We had no dignity as potential child-bearers. By order of the factory’s Family Planning Commission, every month during their menstrual period, women had to undress in front of the birth planning doctor for examination. If anyone skipped the examination, she would be forced to take a pregnancy test at the hospital. We were allowed to collect a salary only after it was confirmed that we were not pregnant.

We are concerned that such practices may still be in force at Chinese factories today, including factories owned by multinationals. We are sure that Apple would be appalled to learn that anything like this could happen at an Apple facility.  Since dozens of Apple facilities have required pregnancy testing, however, it is a legitimate concern that they may also have been complicit with forced abortion under the One Child Policy, as described in Ms. Liu’s shocking testimony.  Would Apple allow an outside group to investigate whether coercive family planning occurs at Apple facilities?

As reported by this USA Today cover story, the One Child Policy continues to be enforced. This policy goes against a woman’s fundamental human right to choose to give birth to a child.  Forced abortion is official government rape.  It is a form of torture.

Additionally, freedom of speech is not allowed in China. Apple’s distinguished Board of Directors includes former Vice President Al Gore, a Nobel Peace Prize winner. While Apple makes millions of iPhones and iPads in China, Mr. Gore’s fellow Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Liu Xiaobo, remains imprisoned. His chair remains empty in Oslo for only having exercised his fundamental right to free speech.  Similarly, Chen Guangcheng was jailed, tortured and denied medical treatment for years because he exposed the massive, systematic use of forced abortion and sterilization in Linyi City under the One Child Policy.  It is a striking irony that your great products promote free speech while being manufactured in a nation that suppresses free speech.

Pursuant to Speaker Boehner’s bipartisan comments, we, as signatories, are committed to assisting the United States Congress in working to “hold China to account.” Our effort is focused on how to insure accountability without penalizing shareholder interests of any United States corporations. We are also committed to future consumer education efforts if necessary – informing the world about the potential complicity of U.S. and other foreign corporations in coercive population control in China.

We invite Apple to champion this cause.  Here is what we ask:

1)  Apple is in a unique position to take a leadership role in standing up against coercive family planning in China.  Attached are our Principles for Corporate Social Responsibility in China Concerning Coercive Family Planning.  We ask that Apple endorse them.  Apple’s endorsement will have a major impact on ending coercive family planning in China, sending a message to the Chinese Communist Party, other American businesses, and the world, that Apple will not comply with violent population control.

2)  We ask that Apple would leverage its clout to demand that China release Liu Xiaobo; ratify into law the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which establishes an array of human rights, including freedom of expression (Article 19); and end forced abortion and other coercive population control, within three months of the date of the demand.

3)  Should the Chinese government fail timely to agree with respect to Apple’s demands,  we request that Apple would agree to draw up a plan to withdraw manufacturing of all Apple products from China.  This courageous act by Apple on behalf of the many people who are suffering horrific human rights abuses would have an incalculable impact to further the cause of human rights in China.  We will call upon other U.S. companies to follow.  As the world’s most valuable company, and as one that has profited much from the hard labor of the Chinese people, this could be Apple’s legacy to the Chinese people and to the world.

4)  In September, we are going to work with members of Congress to secure a bill that would allow Apple a one time waiver to repatriate tax-free the over $74 billion in Apple profits currently in off-shore accounts. Based on the current effective tax rate, this would provide Apple and its shareholders with over a $25 billion windfall for simply doing the right thing.   Should this bill pass, we ask that Apple would repatriate these off-shore profits.

Some key members of Congress from both parties have already agreed to support our efforts next month.   As demonstrated at Chen Guangcheng’s August 1 press conference, we have bipartisan support from influential members of Congress as it pertains to Chinese human rights. Our effort now is to assist Congress in implementing their stated goal of  “holding China to account.” As the world’s most valuable company, Apple has a unique opportunity to demonstrate corporate global leadership.

We would deeply appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to discuss Apple’s position on our proposal and human rights policies as they pertain to China.  We respectfully request you to watch the following video:

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Very truly yours,

Andrew Duncan, Human Rights Advocate

Chen Guangcheng, Blind human rights lawyer and former prisoner

Bob Fu, President, China Aid Association

Reggie Littlejohn, President, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers

Principles for Corporate Social Responsibility in China

Concerning Coercive Family Planning

The Principles:

As a company that voluntarily endorses the Principles for Corporate Social Responsibility in China Concerning Coercive Family Planning (“Principles”), we pledge to apply these Principles in conducting our business in China. We will design and deploy a corporate code of conduct, including policies, procedures, training and internal reporting structures to ensure adherence to these Principles when conducting business in China. We believe the application of these Principles will achieve greater equality for women and avoid complicity with violence against our female employees, perpetrated in connection with our enterprise in China.
Accordingly, we will:
(1) Refuse to practice, collaborate with or tolerate any aspect of coercive family planning on our premises or in connection with our employees, whether on or off premises.

(2) Prohibit the presence of any Family Planning Personnel on the premises of our businesses; prohibit any access of Family Planning Police or other Family Planning Officials to the employees of our businesses; refuse to issue any report or allow the creation of any report concerning the fertility or reproductive status concerning any employee or group of employees of our businesses.

(3) Refuse to allow on our premises or elsewhere in connection with our employees:

  • Forced abortion
  • Forced sterilization
  • The tracking of the menstrual cycles
  • The insertion of IUDs
  • The administration of cervical checks
  • The monitoring of fertility
  • The issuance of threats or seizure in connection with population control
  • The use of physical violence
  • The use of economic, social or political pressure
  • The use of informants, whether paid or unpaid
  • The seizure or detention of illegally pregnant women or members of our families
  • The issuance of birth permits
  • The collection of family planning fines
  • The punishment of One Child Policy violators, their families or co-workers

(4) Refuse to report, or allow to be reported, women who are pregnant without birth permits or who have otherwise violated family planning laws in China.

(5) Communicate with the Government of the People’s Republic of China to urge that Government to end forced abortion, forced sterilization, forced contraception and any other form of coercive family planning in China.

(6) Report and otherwise collaborate in the prosecution or holding accountable of any Chinese national who attempts to practice coercive family planning against any employee of our company, whether this coercion takes place on or off premises.

We will be transparent in our implementation of these principles and provide information that demonstrates publicly our commitment to them.

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