Foxconn admitted last year that the Yantai plant had used some interns as young as 14 over the students' summer vacations.

London - Shareholders at Apple's annual meeting on Wednesday voted down a proposal to create a board committee on human rights, in the wake of a string of scandals at the company's Taiwan-based supplier, Foxconn.

Tough working conditions at Foxconn's Chinese factories have led to suicides and riots, and in October the firm was found to be employing children as young as 14 at one plant.

However, Apple's board argued that its suppliers were already subject to a code of conduct, and that a human rights committee would simply “distract” the board.

Another shareholder proposal, by which executives would be required to retain at least 33 percent of their Apple shares until retirement, so as to keep them focused on the company's “long-term success”, was also voted down. Such a rule, said the board, would “restrict the executives' ability to diversify their portfolios”.

The meeting at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California, saw all eight of Apple's board members re-elected. In a Q&A session afterwards, the chief executive, Tim Cook, was asked to address his company's share price, which has fallen 35 percent in the past few months.

“I don't like it either,” he said. “Neither does the board or management … but we're focused on the long-term.”

Apple remains the world's most valuable tech corporation, but the plummeting share price has led to demands from investors that it share more of its $137bn cashpile.

The hedge fund manager David Einhorn, who has led such calls, was not present on Wednesday.

Mr Cook pointed to the company's $24bn sales in China, which he said was “larger than any technology company in the United States that we're aware of”. He also hinted at new product launches, claiming Apple “has some great stuff coming”. - The Independent