Swedish Ericsson connected to forced labor factory in China

Photo: VCG

New evidence shows that the Swedish networking and telecommunications company Ericsson has been doing business with a Chinese factory accused of using the Uighur Muslims minority for forced labor. Swedish media GT has uncovered hidden documents that show that Ericsson has been a customer at the criticized factory.

It was the same factory that in an investigation from 2020 made by the Australian humanitarian organization ASPI were revealed to have 105 Uighur doing forced labor. The same report also showed that another Swedish company H&M were doing business with the factory.

Allegedly the Uighurs were transported by force from their home region in Xinjiang to the factory in the Wuhan region. Here they were installed in the so-called reeducation programs that are supposed to school the Uighurs into being proper Chinese and to support the communist party.

According to the report the Uighurs are being paid, but other than that the conditions at the factory are resembling slavery. They are sleeping in big sleeping quarters at the factory, and they are not allowed to leave the factory sight. They are under constant surveillance and receive physical punishment. They also have to undergo “ideological training” at night after long workdays.

The findings of this report made H&M cut its ties with the factory.

In a written response to GT, Ericsson also denies being involved with the factory as of today.

“The company, you mention in your email, is not a supplier for Ericsson today. Ericsson respects all internationally recognized human rights and we are constantly working to implement UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) in our operations. All our suppliers are also obliged to follow our code of conduct. This applies to all of our company no matter where we are operating,” Ericson replies.

Ericsson do not want to comment on when their cooperation with the factory stopped or started.

It is not the first time that Ericsson has been in controversy for their operation in China. In 2019 they were forced to pay a record-breaking high fine – equivalent of SEK 10 billion – to the American authorities for having engaged in unjust deals in China. Ericsson had committed corruption crimes by paying certain Chinese officials to gain lucrative contracts in the country.

Electrolux denies ties

Swedish Electrolux – which like Ericsson is primarily owned by the Wallenberg family – were also incriminated in the Australian rapport. Electrolux was found to have had cooperated with Hefei Meiling Co. Ltd. factory in the Anhui province. A factory that was also accused of using forced labor.

Electrolux however denied these allegations.

“We have conducted an investigation and due diligence on the sight made by a group of human rights experts and experienced accountants. We have found no evidence to suggest anything stated in the Australian rapport,” Electrolux replied.

The Wallenberg dynasty. 

The Wallenberg family, who is said to be the richest and most powerful family in Sweden, has for many years had close ties to Chinese business life.

One of the family’s prominent members Jacob Wallenberg is a member of the Shanghai International Council (IBLAC). He also has good contacts with the top leadership in China one of who being Han Zheng, who is one of prime minister Xi Jinping’s closest allies.

Jacob Wallenberg of the Wallenberg family

Jacob Wallenberg has a very diplomatic approach to discussing the lack of freedom and human rights in China where he is engaged in many business collaborations. In a mail, to Svenska Dagbladet, he writes.

“I apologize that these things haven’t come to China yet, which I on multiple occasions have also remarked to the Chinese leaders. But politics – and not the business life – must be occupied by these political questions. I believe that increased transparency and openness is a prerequisite for continued economic development in China,” Jacob Wallenberg says.

About Lasse Sandholdt

ScandAsia Journalist • Scandinavian Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

View all posts by Lasse Sandholdt

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