Report implicates IFC investments in human rights abuses of Uyghur and other minorities in China

6 April 2022

On 16 February, US-based think tank Atlantic Council, together with DFRLab, Sheffield Hallam University, Helena Kennedy Center for International Justice and NomoGaia, published a report alleging that investments by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s private sector lending arm, have contributed to grave human rights violations of Uyghur and other minorities in China.

The report noted that, “significant evidence suggests that several of IFC’s clients are active participants in the implementation of PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] campaign of repression against the Uyghurs, including through forced labor, forced displacement, cultural erasure, and environmental destruction.” Research undertaken by the authors indicates that the IFC currently has approximately $486 million in direct loans and equity investments in four companies operating in the Uyghur Region.

The report made several recommendations based on these findings. It called on the IFC and other development finance institutions (DFIs) to divest from all corporate investments in the Uyghur Region; recommended that the IFC and other DFIs presume that all companies operating in the region are engaged in forced labour and carry risk of complicity in the ongoing genocide; and that the IFC and other DFIs should review and adjust their direct and indirect investment portfolios to move sub-investments, sub-contracts and supply chains out of the Uyghur Region. The report also noted that the IFC should conduct a full review of its portfolio, including financial intermediary investments, using the methods employed in the report.

Commenting on the report author’s interactions with the IFC, Kendyl Salcito of US-based non-profit NomoGaia lamented that, “We alerted IFC personnel to the grave human rights risks associated with these investments in November 2020, and we provided them evidence of confirmed forced labor transfers and other harms in early February this year. IFC has provided no indication that it will act to halt these abuses.” She added that, “IFC isn’t responding to the press, the member governments or us about how they plan to act on these findings. The Bank has made no public statements about our report, let alone about the ongoing genocide in the region. The lack of accountability is staggering.”