WASHINGTON (AFP) - The World Bank announced on Monday (Nov 11) it was ending a project to fund vocational schools in China following allegations of mistreatment of minority Muslim Uighurs.
The World Bank launched another review of the program in late August after Foreign Policy magazine reported that a school that benefited from a tranche of the US$50 million (S$68 million) loan to China bought "barbed wire, gas launchers, and body armour."
The Washington-based development lender said it launched another review in the wake of the charges but "did not substantiate the allegations."
However, "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." "Specifically, the project component that involves the partner schools in Xinjiang is being closed," the World Bank said in a statement.
China's treatment of the Uighurs - a mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking minority concentrated in the tightly-controlled northwestern Xinjiang region - has come under growing scrutiny.
Rights groups and experts say more than one million mostly Muslim ethnic minorities have been interned in re-education camps in Xinjiang, where they are being tortured and forced to renounce their religion.
China initially denied the existence of the camps before admitting to running what it called "vocational education centres," which it presented as necessary to combat religious extremism and boost employment.
World Bank funding to five schools in the project will, however, continue.