A number of Amazon’s Chinese suppliers are linked to forced Uyghur labor camps from China’s Xinjiang region, according to a new report from the Tech Transparency Project. The organization found that five of Amazon’s suppliers have been directly accused by watchdog groups and journalists of relying on workers from China’s many “reeducation centers”, which it uses to detain Uyghur Muslims, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities. The suppliers produce Amazon devices and Amazon-branded products, such as the Amazon Basics line of home goods and tech accessories.
“The findings raise questions about Amazon’s exposure to China’s repression of minority Uyghurs in Xinjiang—and the extent to which the e-commerce giant is adequately vetting its supplier relationships," wrote the authors of the report. "Amazon says that its suppliers 'must not use forced labor' and that it 'does not tolerate suppliers that traffic workers or in any other way exploit workers by means of threat, force, coercion, abduction, or fraud.' But its supplier list tells a different story.”
Two of the suppliers named in the report—Luxshare Precision Industry and AcBel Polytech—were also used by Apple, according to an investigation last year from The Information. Both Amazon and Apple have denied working with forced labor suppliers, despite evidence that suggests otherwise.
“Amazon complies with the laws and regulations in all jurisdictions in which it operates, and expects suppliers to adhere to our Supply Chain Standards. We take allegations of human rights abuses seriously, including those related to the use or export of forced labor. Whenever we find or receive proof of forced labor, we take action,” Amazon spokesperson Erika Reynoso said in a statement to NBC.
The Australian Institute of Strategic Policies found that many major global brands deployed forced labor from China, including Adidas, Gap, H&M, Microsoft, Nike, Sony, Victoria’s Secret and Zara. Amnesty International estimates that China is currently holding roughly 1 million prisoners in internment camps, where they are reportedly forced to renounce their religion and subject to hard labor in factories. The camps are mostly in the Western China region of Xinjiang, and have been in place since 2017.
Both the US and the EU imposed sanctions on China in 2021, barring any imports from Xinjiang until businesses can prove that they no longer use forced labor. But the report found that many Amazon-branded products are still produced in the Xinjiang region. For example, the report found that a couple of towel brands still listed on Amazon advertise using “China-long staple cotton” from the Xinjiang region.
“Amazon’s continued use of companies with well-documented ties to forced labor in Xinjiang cast doubt on the tech giant’s stated intolerance of human rights abuses in its supply chain,” wrote the report’s authors.