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During last week’s annual Intel shareholder meeting, the tech giant refused to answer FEP’s question regarding its controversial relationship with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Specifically, FEP asked about how the company reconciles its so-called commitment to human rights while remaining such cozy partners with the Chinese government.
The question was prompted by Intel’s unapologetic kowtowing to the CCP in recent months. The whole saga began back in December 2021, when in a letter to its suppliers, the company asked the suppliers to keep their business out of the Xinjiang region of China. According to the Wall Street Journal, the letter noted that “multiple governments have imposed restrictions on products sourced from the Xinjiang region. Therefore, Intel is required to ensure our supply chain does not use any labor or source goods or services from the Xinjiang region.”
Intel sent the supplier letter in response to congressional action on the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Signed into law on December 23, 2021, the Act creates a rebuttable presumption that goods coming from the Xinjiang region of China were made by forced labor and are therefore prohibited from being imported into the United States. The CCP has been found to have committed genocide against the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the region, including acts of involuntary sterilization and birth control and forced labor camps.
But rather than acknowledging the well-established brutality of the CCP against the Uyghur people and adhering to the commitment in its “Global Human Rights Principles” to respect human rights wherever it does business, Intel instead did an about face from its request to get out of Xinjiang. The company reversed course by apologizing to the CCP after being criticized on Chinese social media outlets and by CCP-run media for its letter asking suppliers to steer clear of the region that has become synonymous with genocide. “We apologize for the trouble caused to our respected Chinese customers, partners and the public. Intel is committed to becoming a trusted technology partner and accelerating joint development with China,” Intel said as it begged for forgiveness.
Instead of sounding like a company committed to human rights, Intel sounded like the CCP. Indeed, China’s foreign ministry said “accusations of forced labor in Xinjiang are lies concocted by anti-China American forces” aimed at destabilizing China and hindering its development. “We note the statement and hope the relevant company will respect facts and tell right from wrong,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said about the apology during a daily briefing in Beijing.
To make matters worse, weeks after Intel’s apology tour, the company touted its sponsorship of the 2022 Beijing Olympics. In doing so, the company once again sided with the CCP, pretending to the rest of the world that the government was not engaged in mass genocide and human rights abuses while the world watched its best athletes compete in the Chinese capital.
Reconciling Intel’s relationship with the CCP with its Global Human Rights Principles should be a top priority for the company if its alleged human rights commitment is to be construed as anything other than mere lip service. For instance, the company’s policy reads, “At Intel, we are committed to maintaining and improving systems and processes to avoid complicity in human rights violations related to our own operations, our supply chain, and our products.”
Yet being complicit in human rights violations is exactly what the company is doing by issuing apologies to the CCP and sponsoring the “Genocide Olympics.” Intel’s shareholders deserve better—and so do the oppressed ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.
Author: Sarah Rehberg