Apple Inc. said the Fair Labor Association started audits of supplier Foxconn Technology Group's factories in China, the first inspections of a larger effort to respond to criticism of conditions of workers making its gadgets.

The iPhone maker, which became the first technology company to join Washington-based FLA in January, said labor-rights inspectors started today at a Shenzhen, China, plant known as Foxconn City.

Apple came under scrutiny from human-rights groups after workers at Chinese factories owned by Taiwan-based Foxconn, its largest supplier, committed suicide. Besides joining the FLA last month, Apple released a list of its suppliers for the first time and disclosed instances of rights violations by some manufacturers.

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