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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 1 hour ago - Sports

Experts predict major boom for North American sports stadiums

Rendering of the $375 million Moody Center on the UT-Austin campus. Photo courtesy of Moody Center

Stadium and arena construction in North America will total a relatively tame $5.8 billion this year, a 12% decrease from 2021.

The big picture: What the industry lacks in construction it expects to make up for in design, with experts predicting a sports venue boom over the next half-decade, SBJ reports.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

The latest: “I can’t comment on specific pieces of intelligence. But we’ve been warning about just this kind of tactic for weeks and we’ve spoken to that publicly," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.