Chinese university says sorry for forced internships at ‘sweatshop’
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Chinese university says sorry for forced internships at ‘sweatshop’

Chinese university says sorry for forced internships at ‘sweatshop’

Shenyang Urban Construction University has apologised for forcing its students to intern at Foxconn, a company that previously made headlines for draconian working conditions in its factories.

Shenyang education authorities told the university to stop the scheme on Thursday after investigating a report against the school being accused of sending students there as interns against their will, according to K618.cn, a news website run by the Communist Youth League (via South China Morning Post). 

In a statement issued early Friday, Shenyang Urban wrote: “We apologise for the problems and negative social impact caused by this activity.

“We want to apologise sincerely to the students, parents and the public.”

Foxconn is a Taiwanese electronics manufacturing giant, most known for making iPhones as well as products for other brands like Dell and HP.

It has a record for flouting labour laws, including dangerous working conditions, excessive overtime and using child workers. In 2010, safety nets were installed and mental health counsellors trained after several workers at its Shenzhen site committed suicide due to what activists called labour abuses.

Lack of meals and proper working spaces

One intern reported as many as 700 of them were crammed into a room “no bigger than 150sq m” during training at the beginning of their internship. They were later separated into groups of 300 in two rooms.

“We weren’t given enough food and when we tried to ask the canteen for more, we were told off by Foxconn staff,” the intern said.

A photograph of the meal published on SCMP shows a kind of bun or bread and a pastry, a small scoop of what looks like noodles, an egg and a bowl of what appears to be soup.

The intern faces the possibility of not graduating if she does not complete the three-month placement at Foxconn’s plant located in the Shandong province.

SCMP notes the internship programme follows the country’s Education Ministry’s announcement last year that universities should let students choose internships related to their major and at their work place of choice.

But according to another student at Shenyang Urban who interned elsewhere, they aren’t actually given the freedom to choose and in some cases, are underpaid or not paid at all despite having to cover accommodation costs by themselves.

“We have to do internships at a company of the university’s choosing. We were paid CNY300 [US$44] to CNY500 [US$74] a month. The most was CNY1,500 [US$221.78] a month, but some interns weren’t paid at all,” the student said.

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