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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.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.