Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO, Tim Cook, visited an iPhone production plant run by the Foxconn Technology Co., Ltd.(TPE:2354), on his first trip to China as the chief executive officer. The visit becomes all more important as the same plant has been accused of improper labor practices.

Apple CEO Tim Cook

China, the world’s largest mobile market, is Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s second biggest market after the US. Despite Apple’s popularity in the country, its growth has been marred by issues ranging from a contested iPad trademark to treatment of local labor. Foxconn Zhengzhou Technology Park, in the central province of Henan, employs around 120,000 employees. Foxconn Technology Co., Ltd. (TPE:2354) has been a major part of Apple’s global supply chain, as most of the iPhones and iPads are assembled by it. But Foxconn, a part of Taiwan-listed Hon Hai Precision, has been in the news over worker suicides in recent years, and activist groups blame them on tough working conditions.

Cook, who replaced the firm’s visionary founder, Steve Jobs, after his death in August of 2011, also met Vice Premier Li Keqiang, Beijing’s mayor and visited one of Apple’s two stores in the capital. The local media reported that, Cook’s meeting with the vice premier was fruitful and the vice premier promised Cook the country would boost intellectual property protection.

“To be more open to the outside is a condition for China to transform its economic development, expand domestic demands, and conduct technological innovation,” the official Xinhua news agency cited Vice Premier Li Keqiang as saying.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) already had tie-ups with two of the big three Chinese carriers, China Telecom and China Unicom, while China Mobile, the country’s biggest mobile operator, is also looking to clinch a deal. Apart from the labor issues, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has also been engaged in a long running battle over its iPad trademark, which has been claimed by Proview, a financially weak technology company. The claim about the trademark has been referred to through Chinese courts and could threaten to disrupt iPad sales.

Foxconn Technology Co., Ltd. (TPE:2354), the world’s largest component maker, has 1.2 million employees in China, and has come under scrutiny in the past few years, amid reports of employees committing suicide at company facilities. The company has also been accused of employing underage laborers, providing poor living conditions at its dormitory housing, and overworking employees. Just a few days ago, Foxconn Technology Co., Ltd. (TPE:2354), confirmed a two-hour strike at its Zhengzhou factory in China.

Note to clarify: Tim Cook visited China in March, however the article here discusses the labor issues and the recent strike at the factory.