Xinjiang: Chairs Ask Whether World Bank Funding Possible "Crimes Against Humanity"

August 23, 2019

(Washington)--U.S. Representative James McGovern (D-MA) and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the Chair and Cochair respectively of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), today released a letter to World Bank President David Malpass expressing concern and raising questions about a World Bank loan that funds technical and vocational training projects in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). In the XUAR, the Chinese government is arbitrarily detaining over a million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in mass internment camps, actions that “may constitute crimes against humanity.” These camps have often been defended by Chinese officials as a system of vocational education, thus spurring the concern of the CECC Chairs in the World Bank project.  

The full text of the letter can be found below.  

August 13, 2019

David R. Malpass

President

World Bank Group

1818 H Street NW

Washington, DC 20433

Dear Mr. Malpass:

We are writing to express our concern and receive more information about a World Bank loan for $50 million made to the Department of Education of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) for a project titled “Xinjiang Technical and Vocational Education and Training Project.” Our concern stems from the fact that the Chinese government is interning over a million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Turkic Muslims in an expanding system of mass internment camps.

A growing body of convincing and credible evidence indicates mass internment camps are centers for social control and political indoctrination. In these camps, Chinese authorities mistreat and torture detainees while requiring them to engage in forced labor, and to renounce their religion and culture. In addition, detainees are forcibly separated from their children, many of whom are sent to boarding schools and orphanages where their native language and culture are forbidden. We believe such actions may constitute crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Chinese government against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities.

We understand the World Bank loan began before the advent of widespread mass internment camps in the XUAR.  Nevertheless, our concern is that the World Bank continued to disburse the loan, including for capital building projects, even after it was clear that mass internment was occurring and that the Chinese government was spreading propaganda in defense of its policies. In addition, the publicly available reviews of the loan offer few details about the project and have consistently rated its progress as satisfactory.

To better understand the nature of the relationship between the World Bank and the XUAR government regarding vocational education projects, we request your response to the following questions in writing:

1) Has the World Bank investigated the possible overlap between mass internment camps and the vocational schools named in the World Bank project? Has the World Bank conducted an independent financial audit into the use of project funds to ensure that no funds have been misappropriated for use in the mass internment system or the involuntary internment of ethnic minorities for “vocational education”? If so, can you share the investigation and/or audit with us and make these materials publicly available on the World Bank website?     

2) Given that the original intent of the loan was to assist ethnic minorities in the XUAR, has the World Bank investigated whether any minority teachers, staff members, or students at any of the five institutions in the original project plan have been detained in internment camps?   

3) Are there any plans for the World Bank to end its support for vocational education projects in the XUAR? If not, please provide justification for continuing to support them. In addition, given the Chinese and XUAR governments’ complicity in gross violations of human rights, please provide justification for continuing World Bank involvement in any other projects in the XUAR at this time.

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