Apple CEO Tim Cook has visited a Foxconn factory in China where iPhones are manufactured as the company grapples with criticism over its handling of working conditions in its supply chain.
Cook inspected a newly constructed facility in Zhengzhou, China, that employs 120,000 people, Apple spokesperson Carolyn Wu told Bloomberg. Wu declined to discuss what Cook has planned for the remainder of his visit or how much longer he's expected to be in the country.
Earlier this week, Apple's chief executive was spotted in the Joy City Apple Store in Beijing, looking over his company's products and talking with employees. Cook was mum about the purpose of his visit, but speculation has been rampant that he's in town to discuss the company's next-generation iPhone with China Telecom and China Unicom, two of that country's largest carriers.
Apple told Reuters yesterday that the purpose of the visit was to meet with government officials. "China is very important to us and we look forward to even greater investment and growth there," the company said. However, he was also reportedly seen at the Beijing offices of China Mobile — the world's largest mobile carrier with 650 million customers and considered a key to wider adoption of Apple's smartphone.
Cook's visit to Foxconn comes after a series of stories highlighted the working conditions at Foxconn — the world's largest component maker, which provides hardware to companies such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and Sony. Apple asked the non-profit Fair Labor Association (FLA) to investigate conditions at Foxconn facilities in China following reports of unsafe working conditions and a significant uptick in worker suicides. The FLA expects to make its Foxconn audit results available on its website in the next few days.
Since The New York Times published a report that profiled hazardous factory conditions linked to scores of injuries and a handful of deaths, Cook has defended his company's track record on improving working conditions at the manufacturing facilities of its suppliers. He said, "We care about every worker in our worldwide supply chain".