Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have been linked to shocking abuse of China's Uyghur minority. Should gamers boycott the PS5 and Series X?
While gamers fixate on the upcoming release of the PlayStation 5 (PS5) and Xbox Series X, a shocking report has uncovered links between the supply chains of gaming giants and Chinese forced labor factories exploiting people from China’s Uyghur minority group.
The report, published earlier this week by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, implicates industry titans Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo:
Under conditions that strongly suggest forced labor, Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing, and automotive sectors, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony, and Volkswagen.
The report findings are based on evidence gathered from satellite images, academic research, media reports, and open-source Chinese-language documents.
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimates that China moved upwards of 80,00 Uyghurs against their will from their home region of Xinjiang to 27 factories scattered across nine provinces in China since 2017 in what it calls an “exploitative government-led labor transfer scheme.”
A policy dubbed “Industrial Xinjiang Aid” allows Chinese manufacturing companies to transfer Uyghurs to distant factories.
This forced displacement is justified as calming the perceived civil unrest affecting the Xinjiang region, encouraging cultural “rehabilitation,” and aiding “poverty alleviation,” according to the ASPI report.
Among the companies identified as benefiting from the work of Uyghur laborers are Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo.
In Sony and Microsoft’s case, their implication appears to stem from a relationship with Chinese firm O-Film Technology Co. Ltd, which produces cameras and touchscreens.
The two companies, as well as Nintendo, also have links to another company allegedly using forced labor. Hubei Yihong Precision Manufacturing specializes in back-lights and battery covers.
The report specifies that foreign companies’ are “possibly unknowingly” involved in the exploitation of Uyghur laborers and human rights abuses.
In a statement sent to Vice Motherboard, Microsoft said:
Microsoft is committed to responsible and ethical sourcing. We take this responsibility very seriously and take significant steps to enforce our policies and code of conduct in support of human rights, labor, health and safety, environmental protection, and business ethics through our assurance program. All forms of forced labor are specifically banned by our Supplier Code of Conduct. We are investigating the claims and will take appropriate action if breaches of our code of conduct exist.
From a gaming perspective, it’s unclear whether the factories involved produce components for Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo’s consoles. Or, whether they feature in the supply chains of the next-generation PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles.
Regardless, the deplorable conditions imposed on displaced Uyghur laborers could, and should, have an impact on consumer favor towards these companies.
Whether justice for Uyghurs suffering human rights abuses will trump the hype for the PS5 and Xbox Series X remains to be seen. The onus is on gaming consumers to hold Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo accountable.