Dec 5, 2019

Grassley condemns World Bank loans to China amid Uighur detentions

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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Grassley questions World Bank on Xinjiang loan

Malpass (L) with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has requested a meeting with the World Bank over a $50 million loan approved for China's Xinjiang region, where upwards of one million ethnic minorities have been detained, in a letter obtained exclusively by Axios.

Why it matters: Congress is ramping up scrutiny of China's mass internment in Xinjiang — with a special eye on any U.S.-based organization that might be complicit.

Go deeperArrowDec 4, 2019

Scoop: China tried to get World Bank to fund surveillance in Xinjiang

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.

Go deeperArrowDec 11, 2019

Scoop: The World Bank told Taiwanese staff to get Chinese passports

This year, the World Bank told current and prospective employees of Taiwanese nationality they must present Chinese travel documents in order to maintain or pursue employment.

Why it matters: China has recently ramped up its campaign to systematically force Taiwan and its citizens out of the international community. But forcing out its own staff in this way violates World Bank employment principles.

Go deeperArrowDec 13, 2019