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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.

Context: In 2015, the World Bank launched a $50 million loan program to fund technical and vocational training schools in Xinjiang.

  • In early 2017, Chinese authorities in Xinjiang began detaining hundreds of thousands of Muslim ethnic minorities in mass internment camps that Beijing now refers to as "vocational education and training centers."
  • At least one World Bank-funded school purchased thousands of dollars in riot gear and tear gas launchers.
  • The World Bank scaled back but did not cancel the program after news reports and a U.S. government commission drew attention to it in August.

In a letter dated Nov. 22, 2019 and addressed to World Bank President David Malpass, Grassley wrote, "I have concerns over the breakdown in World Bank's internal controls and oversight processes designed to prevent its loans from being used for potentially nefarious purposes."

  • Grassley wrote, "It is hard to see how any project in that region could meet World Bank's social framework standards."
  • Grassley requested that Malpass's office "make itself available for a meeting with my staff as soon as possible" to discuss oversight over future loans.

Driving the news: Yesterday the House passed a bill calling for "targeted sanctions" on Chinese officials responsible for implementing mass detentions in Xinjiang.

What's next: This is only going to get bigger. Watch for even more Congressional scrutiny of the World Bank on this issue.