Dissident Asks Apple to Take Stand Against China Birth Policies

Chinese dissident and activist Chen Guangcheng has asked Apple Inc. to take a stand against his native country's strict one-child policy. China limits couples to one child per family, and requires employers to participate in monitoring pregnancies in their work force—Mr. Chen said that companies like Apple can help pressure the government of the People's Republic of China on the issue.

“Apple in China should take a very active role,” Mr. Chen said in an interview with Bloomberg. “There’s a huge social responsibility for these international corporations like Apple.”

Chen Guangcheng

Chen Guangcheng via Wikimedia Commons

Mr. Chen, who is blind, rose to international prominence after a harrowing nighttime escape from house arrest. He was arrested and said his family was threatened after he began speaking up against China's one-child policy.

The escape from his house, which had multiple guards, included a solo flight through the city, and he eventually wound up at the U.S. embassy. After a semi-tense standoff, Mr. Chen was allowed to leave China and come to the U.S. Bloomberg said that this is the first time he has spoken about his company's birth control policies since arriving in the U.S.

He and other activists want a meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook, and they want Apple and other international companies like Cisco to stop cooperating with Chinese government family-planning officials and to stop reporting women who are pregnant.

On this issue, Apple's Supplier Responsibility Report stated, "24 facilities conducted pregnancy tests, and 56 facilities did not have policies and procedures that prohibit discriminatory practices based on pregnancy."

The company also noted that it classifies, "these practices as discrimination—even if permissible under local laws. At our direction, the suppliers have stopped discriminatory screenings for medical conditions or pregnancy. We also required them to establish clear policies and procedures to prevent recurrence."

Mr. Chen and his cosigners want Apple to take a more proactive stand on the issue. In the letter written to Tim Cook, the said, "Apple is in a unique position to take a leadership role in standing up against coercive family planning in China.”