Dec 5, 2019 - World

Grassley condemns World Bank loans to China amid Uighur detentions

Senator Chuck Grassley surrounded by reporters asking questions.

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) delivered a speech on the floor of the Senate Thursday calling for scrutiny into the World Bank's $50 million loan approved for China's Xinjiang region, where nearly a million Uighur Muslims have been detained in internment camps.

Why it matters: The speech comes days after the House voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bill pushing for sanctions on China over its mass detention of the ethnic minority, as Congress continues to pressure U.S.-based organizations that may be complicit.

What he's saying: "Given the repeated reports about repression in Xinjiang that date back years, it is hard to see how any project in that region could meet the Bank's social framework standards," Grassley said.

  • Grassley highlighted the U.S.' contribution to the World Bank, which is larger than any other nation's: "I think many Americans would question why so many American tax dollars are going to support low-interest loans to China."
  • The Iowa senator said China, which has the world's second largest economy, is past the threshold for World Bank funding, which he said is designed "to help poor countries that cannot access capital markets."

Grassley also said that Russia, which like China is a recipient of World Bank loans, has "well surpassed the World Bank’s graduation threshold" and is effectively an "outlaw state."

  • He cited Russia's occupation of parts of Georgia and Ukraine and its efforts to interfere in democratic elections in the U.S. and around the world.

The bottom line: The World Bank "should not be lending to wealthy countries that violate the human rights of their citizens and attempt to dominate weaker countries either militarily or economically," Grassley said.

What to watch: Grassley said he is proposing an amendment to the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill that would require the U.S. to work to defeat World Bank projects for any country that has reached the institution's "graduation threshold," as well as those designated by the State Department as a “country of particular concern for religious freedom."

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