World Bank China project raises ‘crimes against humanity’ concerns

3 October 2019

In August, the World Bank issued a statement that it had received a number of inquiries regarding its 2015 $50 million education project in Xinjian, China, announcing that it is “actively looking into the questions raised” and committed to taking action if warranted.

The investigation was prompted by a letter from US lawmakers in August to World Bank president David Malpass alleging that the Chinese government is interning over a million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Turkic Muslims in mass internment camps, claiming that, “such actions may constitute crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Chinese government”. The letter raised concerns about whether funds from the project loan, which specifically intended to assist ethnic minorities with technical and vocational education, could have been used “in the mass internment system or for the involuntary internment of ethnic minorities for ‘vocational education’”. This became particularly worrisome, according to the letter, when Bank funding continued “even after it was clear that mass internment was occurring and that the Chinese government was spreading propaganda in defense of its policies.”

Following the letter, Foreign Policy magazine reported that schools benefiting from the Bank project had bought $30,000 worth of “barbed wire, gas launchers, and body armor”, noting it was unclear on the source of that funding. Foreign Policy also reported that in July, a World Bank employee raised numerous issues relating to the project as red flags and suggested the case should be referred to the Inspection Panel (the Bank’s independent accountability mechanism) for investigation, but that “these concerns went unheeded”.

James Millward of Georgetown University commented to UK newspaper The Independent that, “The likelihood of any World Bank-funded project being associated with the concentration camps, or entities directly running the camps, is high.”