Game of Loans: China's World Bank Uyghur Scam

December 12, 2019

There isn't a civilized country on earth that wants any part of China's chain of concentration camps. Certainly not this one. So imagine Americans' shock when they find out that our tax dollars have been streaming across the ocean to help fund these modern torture chambers. The news has been especially horrifying to U.S. officials, who've poured more money than anyone into the World Bank -- believing it was helping the needy, not an army of communist monsters.

The first flares went up in August, when American leaders got suspicious over a $50 million loan to China for its "technical and vocational training projects" in Xinjiang, home of the barbed-wire network of camps. The money started flowing in 2015, a while before the world had caught on to the terror and brutality taking place behind the high walls. For the last year, Chinese officials have insisted the prisons are just education centers, places where the Uyghurs and other religious minorities come to learn. Of course, we know now that was all a lie -- and what really happens at the compounds are gang rapes, electrocutions, drug injections, organ harvestings, and medieval-era torture tactics.

Both parties started demanding answers. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Congressman James McGovern (D-Mass.) fired off a letter to World Bank President David Malpass demanding an investigation. Then, when news broke that China was asking for more money -- this time to perfect its facial recognition and surveillance weapons against the Uyghurs, the outrage exploded. First of all, President Trump railed, the World Bank shouldn't even be lending money to China. It doesn't need it! "China is the world's second largest economy," Daniel Runde from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, points out. "It has $3 trillion in foreign currency reserves, runs its own global infrastructure bank­... and has received more than $60 billion in below-market-rate lending from the World Bank since 1981." If anything, China should be giving to the Bank -- not taking!

But secondly, the audacity of these leaders -- asking for the world's help in its persecution campaign -- is just astounding. Of course, no one really knew about the request because, as Axios points out, the procurement documents hadn't been translated into English. Only Chinese staff could read them -- until recently, when everyone's worst fears were confirmed: this crackdown wasn't just happening, it was getting worse. "Absolutely no mercy," officials had ordered.

Although the World Bank rejected this latest grant, the other tens of millions of dollars of aid are still in play. "Money is fungible," expert Gordan Chang warned on "Washington Watch." "Once you put money... into that [Xinjiang] area, they can use it -- or they can indirectly use it -- for these evil purposes. And what China is doing..." Gordan insisted, "is a crime against humanity. We know people are dying in those facilities... So this is horrific. This is Third Reich-type stuff, as bad as what Germany did prior to the mass exterminations."

If there is any comfort, Gordon explains, it's that the World Bank president is traditionally an American -- as is Malpass, who used to work for the Treasury Department. He has to understand the optics of U.S. dollars flowing straight into communist hands. "There is going to be more scrutiny," Gordan warns, "and there will be restrictions. And people are actually calling for de-funding of the World Bank. De-funding won't occur, but there will be, I think, probably less in the way of contributions to that institution." Because, he went on, at the end of the day, "When you support China, even with the World Bank, proceeds are used for 'good purposes.' [But] that frees up money for China to use for building up its military or other things that people around the world would abhor."

Just a few months ago, word leaked out that World Bank dollars had been used to buy $30,000 of tear gas for one of the partner schools in Xinjiang. What are we doing funding these things through the World Bank? "I don't have an answer for that," Gordon said somberly. "And I don't think anyone does... These are things that no multilateral institution should be doing."

At least on U.S. editorial pages, the story is creating an uproar. In the Washington Post, the staff came out firing. "The notion that U.S. public funds could be helping Beijing's campaign against the Uyghur people, even indirectly, is scandalous. Yet it is the sort of accident that was waiting to happen as long as the World Bank continued to do business in Mr. Xi's China." Others bashed the country for pretending to be an international charity case. "As the largest shareholder in the World Bank, the United States should not have the taxpayer money it contributes to the bank used to fund a global competitor. China should be paying for its own development programs."

Either way, President Trump is right. For the sake of the Uyghurs, American taxpayers, and millions of legitimately needy people, it's time to stop underwriting this genocide -- now.