Silicon Valley won’t acknowledge its problem with China

In the world of technology, Shamat Palihapitiya, the billionaire venture capitalist and investor, is what some like to call a “bomb thrower” – someone who likes to say provocative and incendiary things, regardless of the target. In 2017, for example, it says Facebook created “dopamine-driven feedback loops,” even though he had been an executive at Facebook from 2007 to 2011 and was close to Mark Zuckerberg. Years later, when GameStop shares took off like a rocket thanks to the WallStreetBets Reddit forum, most investors called the chaos childish and dangerous. Palihapitiya, however, took to CNBC and Twitter to defend himsaying the reshuffle was a much-needed wake-up call to the financial establishment, even though he’s part of that establishment (he’s now worth over a billion dollars and count, and he became a prime example of get rich via SPACthe flashy new form of going public).

When bankers and economists last year warned potential drops in cryptocurrencies and the dangerous bubble frenzy around cryptocurrencies, Palihapitiya once again took to the airwaves with a outrageous statement: “I can say with certainty that Bitcoin, I think, has effectively replaced gold.” He has critical politicians too, including the Governor of California Gavin Newsom, on his fiscal policies and COVID response, and former San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, regarding his housing policies and NIMBYism in the region. He hates how Silicon Valley works and said once in an interview – and I quote – “I want to rule this fucking industry!”

Although others in tech pick fights—Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Marc Cuban, to name a few brands, what sets Palihapitiya apart is his propensity to pursue not just those who disagree with him, but people on both sides of the aisle. Palihapitiya’s bomb-throwing made him a god to some and an outcast to others. But over the weekend, he apparently took his hell a little too far when he said on his All-in podcast, amid a discussion of human rights, that he simply didn’t care about the genocide of the Uyghurs, China’s majority Muslim minority group. “Nobody cares what happens to Uyghurs, okay,” he said. “I tell you a very hard and ugly truth. Of all the things I care about, yes, it’s below my line. He then reiterated his feelings with added affect: “Of all the things I care about, it’s below, my line.” The clip hit Twitter and, as one might imagine, exploded.

Palihapitiya has already backtracked, and he even pseudo-apologized. After his attack on Facebook in 2017, he was criticized by his former employer and later said: “I sincerely believe that Facebook is a force for good in the world”, adding that his “comments were intended to start an important conversation “. This week he followed suit, saying via a statement on Twitter that he “[came] across as lacking empathy” and that, as a refugee himself (he was born in Sri Lanka), he supports human rights. But critics – and this time there were many – pointed out that his statement did not mention Uyghurs. He has since to become a even, was constantly heckled and, as far as I can tell, saw few (if any) people come to his defense. The Golden State Warriors, which Palihapitiya partly owns, tried to distance themselves from his remarks, say publicly“As a limited investor who does not have day-to-day operational duties with the Warriors, Mr. Palihapitiya does not speak for our franchise, and his views certainly do not reflect those of our organization.” Virgin Galactic, of which Palihapitiya is chairman of the board, has also distanced himself, noting that Palihapitiya “The comments do not reflect the views of Virgin Galactic nor do they speak on behalf of the company.” (As of press time, he is still involved with both institutions.)

It is believed that China has secretly detained at least a million Uighurs in forced labor and prison camps. In December last year, a public tribunal set up by a prominent British human rights lawyer would have found that China had engaged in ‘crimes against humanity’ in its treatment of Uyghurs, including ‘rape, forced sterilization, torture, imprisonment, persecution, deportation and enforced disappearance’ . And no later than Thursday, the French parliament pass a motion calling on the government to officially label the events as “genocide” and condemn China. (China has denied any wrongdoing.) Palihapitiya’s comments appear to represent a unique perspective from Silicon Valley, and there may be a reason for that: a investigation by The Information last year revealed that seven of Apple’s technology suppliers may have used forced labor in programs suspected of having links to China’s alleged persecution of Uyghurs. Another one Reuters report discovered that an American electronics company had “reached an agreement with Xinjiang authorities to transport hundreds of Uyghur workers to its factory in the city of Qinzhou, in southern China”. (According to Reuters, a company spokeswoman said the company “treated them the same as other workers in China,” adding that “it does not consider any of its employees to be forced labor.” the fate of the Uyghurs; last year the social network allowed China to broadcast state announcements who denied abuses by Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

When it comes to “factories” or camps, the way Uyghurs are treated would be comparable to a prison system. BuzzFeed has devoted a long five-part series the fate of the Uyghurs in these camps. The news article noted that it was not Apple alone that allegedly worked with these suppliers, but also Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Facebook, all of which manufacture tech gadgets in China.

Apple – which has been highlighted in reports more than other tech companies, largely due to its size and influence – has denied the claims and told The Information it has found no evidence of forced labor in its supply chain. Yet the Tech Transparency Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog group, discovered in December 2020 that a glass supplier for Apple was using Uyghur forced labor. “Our research shows that Apple’s use of forced labor in its supply chain goes well beyond what the company has acknowledged,” Katie Paul, the director of the organization, said The Washington Post, who reported the group’s discovery. (An Apple spokesperson told the To post that the company had confirmed that the supplier had not “received any labor transfers from Uyghur workers from Xinjiang” and that it had also ensured that none of its other suppliers were using labor. of Uyghur work in the region.) To post also wrote about how Apple would have lobbied to weaken a bill, called the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Law, which sought to prevent forced labor in China. (An Apple spokesperson told the To post that the company was “committed to ensuring everyone in our supply chain is treated with dignity and respect,” adding, “We abhor forced labor and support the goals of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Law.” .) The law project was signed into law last month.

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