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Samsung says Chinese assembler didn't have child workers

Samsung Electronics Co. said it didn't find workers younger than 16 at a Chinese assembler accused by a New York-based group of using child labor.

While investigators sent by Samsung found some employees younger than 18, the student workers and interns were over 16, and their employment is legal, the Suwon, South Korea-based company said in a statement today. China Labor Watch said last month seven children younger than 16 were working in the factory of HEG Electronics (Huizhou) Co. that makes phones and DVD players for Samsung.

Samsung asked HEG to improve its working conditions and said it will stop doing business with the Chinese company if it doesn't comply with child-labor laws, the world's largest seller of handsets and televisions said. Labor groups are increasing scrutiny on workers in Asia after a spate of suicides at a factory of Apple Inc. supplier Foxconn Technology Group in 2010.

"Samsung holds itself and its supplier companies to the highest standards," according to the statement. "If HEG fails to meet Samsung's zero tolerance policy on child labor, the contract will be immediately severed." China Labor Watch didn't immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on Samsung's statement outside business hours.

The Samsung investigators, who interviewed the factory workers and reviewed human-resources documents through last month, found some employees worked overtime and had no access to medical clinics, according to the statement.

Samsung will conduct on-site inspections by the end of September on all 105 Chinese companies that make products solely for the company, it said in the statement.

Child workers faced the "same harsh conditions" as adults and were paid only 70 percent of the wages of other workers, according to the New York-based group, which said it conducted investigations in June and July. Working conditions at HEG were "well below" those at Apple suppliers, the report said.

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