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World Bank Cuts Funding for Controversial Uighur Schools in China

Ethnic minority students study in class as they sit in front of a blackboard at a preschool in Aksu, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region June 7, 2012. Picture taken June 7, 2012. (Stringer/Reuters)

The World Bank announced on Monday that it will cut off funding for vocational schools in the Xinjiang region of China following reports of government mistreatment of the minority Uighur population that resides in the area.

The World Bank had issued a $50 million loan for the “Xinjiang Technical and Vocational Education and Training Project,” overseen by China’s Department of Education in the Xinjiang region. In August, Foreign Policy reported that the schools that received the loan used at least $30,000 to purchase barbed wire, tear gas, and body armor along with other security gear. It was not clear at the time if the purchase of security gear came directly from the bank’s funds, but the revelation raised concerns of a funding overlap.

On August 23, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China sent a letter to World Bank President David R. Malpass asking if the bank was funding “crimes against humanity” with its Xinjiang program.

The World Bank said on Monday its own internal review of the matter “did not substantiate the allegations” its funds were being used for repressive purposes, but decided to end funding for schools in Xinjiang anyway.

“In light of the risks associated with the partner schools, which are widely dispersed and difficult to monitor, the scope and footprint of the project is being reduced,” the bank said in a statement. “Specifically, the project component that involves the partner schools in Xinjiang is being closed.”

China is accused of forcing around one million Uighurs into detention camps, where detainees are indoctrinated in Chinese political ideology and are forced to abandon the practice of Islam, the Uighur religion. Reports from escaped prisoners detail mass torture and rape at the camps, as well as forced medical experiments on detainees.

In the beginning of November, Radio Free Asia reported the Chinese government is assigning ethnic Han men to live and sleep with Uighur women whose husbands are detained in camps.

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