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University Apologises for Forced Internships

In July, Shenyang Urban Construction University offered a public apology to a second year student pressured by the university into a three-month internship at a Foxconn factory in Yantai, Shandong province. The university had told her that, had she refused to comply, she would not have been able to graduate. To deal with rising labour costs, in recent years Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn has struck several deals with Chinese secondary vocational schools and universities to hire students as paid interns in its factories. This young workforce has often voiced dissatisfaction about cramped accommodations, inadequate meals, and a type of work that they consider to be unrelated to their studies. Since the apology, the Department of Education in Liaoning province the area where the University is located—has ordered an investigation and halted such internships at public universities. Foxconn has also issued a statement, saying that the company had fully complied with the existing laws and regulations, and that interns had been fully informed about the programme and had the right to leave at any time. However, the company has a history of hiring interns that goes back at least a decade (see Jenny Chan’s chapter in the present volume). Back in 2012, the Taiwanese manufacturer was criticised by labour rights groups for exploiting forced internship labour, but the company denied all allegations of wrongdoing. Only one year later, in 2013, as more evidence from investigations emerged, Foxconn was forced to admit that student interns worked overtime and night shifts at its Yantai factory. Even at that time, students reported that they had no choice but to take part in the factory internship programme if they wanted to graduate. KL

(Sources: Financial Times; Ministry of Education; South China Morning Post; The New York Times; Sina)

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