Apple under fire from Chinese environmental groups

A report by the three dozen groups, "The Other Side of Apple," ranks Apple as the least responsive to concerns among more than two dozen technology companies that were surveyed. The criticism comes as the maker of hit gadgets like the iPod and iPad begins to open stores in China and push further into the Chinese market.

Chinese environmental groups have been critical of Apple in the past, but the latest report underscores their growing outspokenness in a society where dissent is routinely suppressed by the authorities. Though dubbed environmentalists, their activism extends into other areas including worker rights.

Apple has been trailed by bad publicity after several workers for one of its suppliers, contractor Foxconn Technology Group which makes iPhones and other gadgets, killed themselves in southern China last year.

Dozens of workers for another contractor, Wintek Corp, have reported being sickened by chemicals used in making touch screens for Apple and other companies.

Low wages have drawn thousands of foreign companies to China, with many contracting production to Chinese companies or the local units of other foreign companies to boost profits. But activists say that makes it more of a challenge to track problems like dangerous working conditions and hold the company that contracted out the production liable.

An Apple spokeswoman in China, Carolyn Wu, said the company is "committed to ensuring the highest standards of social responsibility" but had no direct response to today's report.

As for supplier factories, Wu said Apple is looking at the issue overall. "You have some that aren't so good," she said.

The report says Apple didn't respond to repeated requests for information on problems at its suppliers that have made news over the past year.

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