Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Chinese recipients of World Bank loans tried to secure funding for the purchase of facial recognition technology for use in China’s northwest region of Xinjiang, according to documents obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The World Bank's loan program in Xinjiang demonstrates the extreme moral hazard that is now facing any organization with operations in the region, where China has constructed a surveillance state and detained more than a million ethnic minorities.

In more than 8,000 pages of official World Bank Chinese-language procurement documents dated June 2017 and reviewed by Axios, Chinese recipients of the loan program requested tens of thousands of dollars for the purchase of facial recognition cameras and software, night-vision cameras, and other surveillance technology for use in Xinjiang schools.

  • The World Bank told Axios those funds were not disbursed.
  • A World Bank spokesperson said, “As an institution focused on ending poverty, the World Bank knows that inclusive societies are key to sustainable development, and we take a strong line against discrimination of any kind. We promote equal access to opportunities, including education and training, so that everyone can seek to realize his or her full potential. We are fully committed to the integrity of our projects. We respond immediately when issues are raised, and we act based on facts.”

The big picture: In 2015, the World Bank began a loan program called the “Xinjiang Technical and Vocational Education and Training Project.” The program provides $50 million over five years to five vocational schools and their partner schools.

  • By early 2017, China had blanketed Xinjiang in surveillance, which it used to help round up ethnic minorities into internment camps Beijing calls "vocational training centers." The World Bank did not review or scale back the program at that time.
  • In August, the loan program came under congressional scrutiny for possible complicity in China’s repression.
  • In November, the World Bank announced it was scaling back the program and would only fund the original schools, not their partners.
  • But the 2017 procurement documents came from those five original schools, which continue to receive World Bank funding.

One of the items requested by a World Bank-funded school was a video management and facial recognition software system that can create a “blacklist face database that can be set and armed” so that “blacklist alarms can be performed when blacklisted individuals pass through” and the resulting images sent directly to Chinese police.

  • Such systems have been used to flag Xinjiang ethnic minorities for extrajudicial detention.
  • A requirement for one of the facial recognition systems requested by a World Bank-funded school was that it be able to "distinguish between males and females with a reliability of 97%."
  • The vast majority of the more than 1 million detainees in the camps are male — being both Uighur and male is essentially an automatic strike against a person.
  • The budget request for the system was approximately $12,800.

The World Bank confirmed to Axios that the schools had requested the equipment, but stated that the government had canceled the procurement plan in October 2017 and that no World Bank funds were provided for surveillance equipment.

Between the lines: A World Bank spokesperson also told Axios that the June 2017 procurement documents had not been translated into English, meaning only Chinese-speaking staff could read them, complicating oversight of this specific procurement plan. 

  • The spokesperson said that one of its partner schools in Xinjiang — the school that purchased $30,000 in riot gear and tear gas launchers in 2017, resulting in a media storm— had been the scene of violent anti-government protests in 2014.

The procurement documents also show loan recipients wanted equipment that was “compatible” with Chinese video surveillance manufacturers HikVision and DaHua, which have provided similar equipment for the camps and local governments in Xinjiang.

  • In October, the U.S. government prohibited U.S. companies from exporting components to Hikvision and Dahua without approval, citing their complicity in gross human rights violations.

The bottom line: The World Bank continued the loan program after the Chinese schools requested highly advanced surveillance equipment for a simple educational project — a lapse that appears to bolster Sen. Chuck Grassley's concerns about a possible "breakdown" in its oversight process.

Go deeper: Read the procurement documents

Go deeper

House Judiciary Committee advances reparations bill in historic vote

Sheila Jackson Lee. Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

The House Judiciary Committee voted 25 to 17 Wednesday to advance a bill that would create a commission to study reparations for Black Americans who are the descendants of slaves.

Why it matters: "No such bill has ever come this far during Congressional history of the United States," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who sponsored the bill, per the Washington Post.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Officer Kim Potter arrested, charged with manslaughter in Daunte Wright's death

Kim Potter's booking photos. Photo: Hennepin County Sheriff's Office

Kim Potter, the former police officer charged with second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright, was released on a $100,000 bond on Wednesday, Hennepin County jail records show.

Why it matters: Sunday's shooting of the 20-year-old Black man in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, just 10 miles from where George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer last year, has reinvigorated Black Lives Matter protests and led to three consecutive nights of unrest.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden names Erika Moritsugu as senior AAPI liaison

Erika Moritsugu. Photo courtesy: National Partnership for Women & Families

President Biden has named Erika Moritsugu as deputy assistant to the president and Asian American and Pacific Islander senior liaison, the White House announced Wednesday.

Driving the news: The decision follows weeks of pressure from AAPI leaders to include more Asian American representation at the Cabinet level and in senior administration roles.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!