Amazon is reportedly employing suppliers in China with links to forced labor of ethnic minorities from the Xinjiang region.
A report from research group the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), has accused Amazon of continuing to work with these suppliers, despite evidence of their association with Uyghur labor camps.
Amazon’s public list of suppliers, which produce Amazon devices and goods for Amazon’s private brands, includes five companies that have been linked directly or indirectly to forced labour of ethnic minorities from China’s Xinjiang region, – TTP said in its report that came out late on Monday.
Amazon last “comprehensively updated” its supplier list in June 2021, but details about the five suppliers’ links to forced labor were public before then.
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.
Amazon says that its suppliers “must not use forced labour” 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.
In China, programs euphemistically called “labor transfers” move workers from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, a predominantly Muslim area in western China, to factories in other parts of the country.
“Three Amazon suppliers are reported to have used forced labor directly: Luxshare Precision Industry, AcBel Polytech, and Lens Technology. Another two, GoerTek and Hefei BOE Optoelectronics, are themselves supplied by factories that have been implicated in forced labor,” the report mentioned.
Amazon continued to include one company, Esquel Group, on its supplier list for more than a year after the US government imposed sanctions on an Esquel subsidiary for involvement in forced labour in China – the report noted.
In a response to The Information, Amazon said it expects all items sold in its stores to comply with its supply chain standards, adding that the company takes action if it receives proof of forced labor.
“A month later, however, Amazon continued to include the Luxshare and AcBel subsidiaries on its supplier list,” said the TTP report.
TTP also found an example of a Chinese seller on Amazon simply deleting references to “Xinjiang” from its description of bedding, with no discernible change to the underlying goods — raising questions about Amazon’s monitoring of such sellers.
“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,” the report stressed.