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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

U.S. lawmakers are demanding answers from the World Bank about its continued operation of a $50 million loan program in Xinjiang, following Axios reporting on the loans.

Why it matters: The Chinese government is currently waging a campaign of cultural and demographic genocide against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, in northwest China. The lawmakers contend that the recipients of the loans may be complicit in that repression.

In a letter dated Aug. 12 and addressed to World Bank Group president David Malpass, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), co-chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, pointed to specific concerns about the activities of the schools that have received funding.

What they're saying: "We continue to have serious concerns about the World Bank’s continued disbursement of a loan to the [Xinjiang] Department of Education after it became aware of the mass internment of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslims in the region," wrote McGovern and Rubio.

Background: Axios reported in December 2019 that World Bank partner schools in Xinjiang had requested tens of thousands of dollars to fund advanced surveillance equipment — including facial recognition systems — that connected directly to local public security bureaus.

  • Xinjiang is the site of a sweeping Chinese government campaign to forcibly assimilate Uighurs and other ethnic minorities through mass surveillance and detention.
  • The bank did not provide funding for the equipment but continued to disburse the loan even after the unusual request.
  • After media scrutiny, the bank scaled back but did not discontinue the Xinjiang loan program.

The lawmakers referenced the Axios report on the funding request, stating, "We would like to better understand why the World Bank considered it appropriate to work with these five vocational schools when they were seeking to purchase this type of equipment."

Go deeper: China tried to get World Bank to fund surveillance in Xinjiang

Go deeper

The public school funding divide

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Bettmann, Barbara Alper/Getty Images

Property taxes are the oxygen that makes public schools thrive, allowing districts with large, wealthy tax bases to offer better educational opportunities to their students while leaving districts with smaller tax bases starved for cash.

Why it matters: The gap plays an outsized role in perpetuating inequality in U.S. schools. Black and Latino students are likely to live in poorer neighborhoods and therefore attend poorer schools — shortchanging their education and producing consequences that snowball throughout K-12 and beyond.

Updated 4 hours ago - World

Skripal poisoning suspects linked to Czech blast, as country expels 18 Russians

Combined images released by British police in 2018 of Alexander Petrov (L) and Ruslan Boshirov, who are suspected of carrying out an attack in the in the southern English city of Salisbury using Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, and also the2014 Czech depot explosion. Photo: Metropolitan Police via Getty Images

Czech police on Saturday connected two Russian men suspected of carrying out a poisoning attack in Salisbury, England, with a deadly ammunition depot explosion southeast of the capital, Prague, per Reuters.

Driving the news: Czech officials announced Saturday they're expelling 18 Russian diplomats they accuse of being involved in the blast in Vrbětice, AP notes. Czech police said later they're searching for two men carrying several passports — including two with the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

Indianapolis mass shooting suspect legally bought 2 guns, police say

Marion County Forensic Services vehicles are parked at the site of a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Friday. Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images

The suspected gunman in this week's mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis legally purchased two "assault rifles" believed to have been used in the attack, police said late Saturday.

Of note: The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's statement that Brandon Scott Hole, 19, bought the rifles last July and September comes a day after the FBI told news outlets that a "shotgun was seized" from the suspect in March 2020 after his mother raised concerns about his mental health.