Josh Hawley Blasts Apple CEO Tim Cook for Aiding China: ‘Unconscionable’

Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri has strongly criticized Apple CEO Tim Cook for the tech company’s reliance on China and called on Apple to reduce its use of Chinese labor.

Hawley shared a letter he’d written to Cook on Twitter on Tuesday as protests have spread in China with demonstrators expressing anger at the government’s stringent COVID-19 policies.

A Foxconn factory, Apple’s key manufacturing hub and supplier in Zhengzhou, the capital and largest city of the east-central Henan province, has also been disrupted due to recent protests about COVID-19 restrictions and a delay in bonuses.

Comp Image, Josh Hawley and Tim Cook
In this combination image, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) pictured in February 2022 and Apple CEO Tim Cook (right) delivers a keynote address during an Apple special event on September 07, 2022, in Cupertino, California. Hawley has demanded answers from Cook over Apple’s relationship with China.

“I’d like to know why ⁦@Apple continues to aid and abet the totalitarian regime in #China while campaigning against free speech at home,” Hawley tweeted, sharing his letter.

In the letter, Hawley wrote to Cook that Apple’s “activities in China are unconscionable and present substantial material risks to your stakeholders.” He

“I urge you to take meaningful steps to end operations in China and to reshore production to the United States,” the Republican said. He also referred to “reports [that] indicate that your company might deplatform Twitter from the App Store as a consequence of the free speech policies implemented by new ownership [Elon Musk].”

Hawley described China’s COVID-19 restrictions as “draconian public health measures” and pointed to the recent protests against the country’s zero COVID policy, which included some at the Foxconn plant in Zhengzhou—the world’s largest iPhone factory.

Disruptions at that factory are of major concern for Apple and could potentially lead to a shortfall of nearly 6 million iPhones this year.

Hawley also pointed to the fact that Apple has recently restricted its wireless AirDrop service in China following what it called a bug fix on November 9.

The service includes a feature that allows users to receive files from “everyone” for an indefinite period of time but Chinese users are now able to use the “everyone” option for just 10 minutes, after which AirDrop reverts to contacts only.

AirDrop has previously been used to help protesters in authoritarian countries to evade censorship and there are concerns that the change could make it more difficult to share material anonymously.

Hawley wrote that “public reports indicate that Apple, through a recent software update for iPhones in China, has modified the AirDrop function to make it more difficult for protestors to use this function to evade censorship and surveillance.”

“Unconscionable though this decision may be, it is not surprising: under your leadership, Apple has time and again assisted the Chinese Communist Party in surveilling and suppressing the basic human rights of the Chinese people,” the senator said.

Hawley argued that outsourcing production to China had yielded short-term benefits for the company, but he urged Apple “to take meaningful steps to reduce your dependence on Chinese labor, especially by reshoring production in the United States.”

The senator’s letter ended with five questions for Cook and a request for a response by December 6. The topics of those questions included the recent change to AirDrop, diversifying manufacturing and the treatment of factory workers.

Newsweek has contacted Apple for comment.

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