According to a study by the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), a research group operated by the nonprofit watchdog organization Campaign for Accountability, Amazon is reportedly utilizing suppliers in China who are linked to forced labor (via NBC News). Despite proof of these vendors’ ties to Uyghur labor camps, the study charges Amazon of continuing to engage with them.
The Uyghurs, China’s Muslim ethnic minority, are predominantly concentrated in the Xinjiang region of the nation. The group has been subjected to a multitude of human rights violations in the nation, including detention camps, continual monitoring, mass sterilization, and forced labor, over the course of several years. As the TTP points out, China utilizes “labor transfers” to move Uyghurs from Xinjiang to industries across China, putting them into labor programs that are “frequently coercive and linked to a network of mass detention and reeducation centers,” according to the TTP.
The TTP identifies five firms on Amazon’s supplier list (available as a CSV file underneath the page’s supply chain map) that have been publicly criticised for being “directly or indirectly” linked to China’s Uyghur community in the Xinjiang region’s forced labor. Amazon’s suppliers are responsible for creating Amazon-branded products such as the Echo, Fire TV, Kindle, and the Amazon Basics line of low-cost items, among others.
Three Amazon suppliers — Luxshare Precision Industry, AcBel Polytech, and Lens Technology — were found to have employed forced labor, according to the TTP. Indirectly connected are two additional firms, GoerTek and Hefei BOE Optoelectronics, which purportedly use suppliers who have been suspected of utilizing forced labor. Luxshare and Lens Technology, for example, were both tied to forced labor in bombshell exposes from The Information and The Washington Post, albeit both revelations focused on Apple’s problematic history of suppliers.
According to the TTP, Amazon’s supply chain guidelines (PDF) expressly prohibit forced labor. “Amazon suppliers must not utilize any form of forced labor, including slave work, jail labor, indentured labor, bonded labor, or any other form of compelled labor,” the company’s policies state. “All labor must be voluntary, and employees must have the freedom to leave and terminate their job or other employment status with reasonable notice.”
In addition to allegations that Amazon uses forced labor suppliers, the TTP discovered a number of accounts selling Xinjiang-sourced cotton, which was outlawed by the US government last year. A number of nations have slapped restrictions on Xinjiang, with the United States banning all imports from the region in December.
Apple and Amazon aren’t the only firms established in the United States with links to Xinjiang and forced labor. Tesla was chastised earlier this year for building a showroom in Xinjiang, and was also named in a TTP report from December 2020 as a putative customer of the aforementioned Lens Technology firm.
In a response to The Verge, Amazon spokesperson Erika Reynoso stated, “Amazon complies with the laws and regulations in all jurisdictions in which it operates, and expects suppliers to comply to our Supply Chain Standards.” “We treat claims of human rights violations, especially those involving the use or export of forced labor, very seriously.” We take action if we discover or receive proof of forced labor.”