By Chuck Ross
December 22, 2022
Amazon has it all. Books. Clothes. Chinese surveillance cameras implicated in human rights atrocities.
The online retail giant offers a variety of products from Tiandy, the Chinese company that the Commerce Department blacklisted last week for its involvement in China’s repression of Uyghurs and links to the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. For $6,903, Amazon customers can purchase a Tiandy TC-A3563, which allows "Face Capture/intelligent monitoring mode." Tiandy’s 17-pound, multi-lens TC-A35555, which "detects up to 32 faces at the same scene," runs for $9,498.
The Commerce Department blacklist bars American companies from selling equipment to Tiandy but does not prohibit the sale of Tiandy hardware. But selling Tiandy’s products poses a variety of ethical issues, according to Craig Singleton, the deputy director of the China program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
"At some point there is a responsibility on companies like Amazon to ensure that products they are selling aren't implicated in gross human rights violations," said Singleton, who authored a report this month on Tiandy’s role in China’s surveillance state.
"[Amazon] should do their part to make sure no one is enabling these problematic Chinese companies or helping them establish market share in the U.S.," Singleton told the Washington Free Beacon.
Critics have raised concerns that Beijing could exploit Tiandy products to surveil Americans. But in China, Tiandy’s surveillance capabilities are a selling point.
In its marketing documents, Tiandy boasts that its cameras can identify ethnic Uyghurs from their physical features—a capability that Beijing has used for targeted surveillance of the minority Muslim group in Western China. Chinese authorities also use a dungeon-like apparatus called a "tiger chair" during interrogations of Uyghurs.
Tiandy has also equipped the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the United States has sanctioned as a terrorist group, with spy technology to track pro-democracy protesters. The group has been implicated in the deaths of hundreds of Americans and has executed at least two people involved in anti-regime protests this year.
Unlike Amazon, other American wholesalers have stopped selling Tiandy products in response to the company’s blacklisting. G4Direct, an Ohio-based wholesaler, stopped selling Tiandy cameras and is negotiating with the company to buy back its inventory, the company’s owner told the Free Beacon.
"It looks like they've done the right thing here," Singleton said of G4Direct.
"Preventing the sale of this company's products in the United States seems like a common sense step to push back on Chinese human rights abuses and to prevent companies like Tiandy from getting a foothold in the U.S. market," Singleton said.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.