World Bank loaned $50 million to the Department of Education of Xinjiang for a project titled “Xinjiang Technical and Vocational Education and Training Project” (TVET project). Based on my research, there is no evidence that World Bank funds are directly involved in the Xinjiang’s mass internment system. However, it is possible that this World Bank project is indirectly involved in Xinjiang’s human rights crisis, although I believe the link is weak.
Xinjiang re-education camp system is usually officially referred as “Vocational Skills Education Training Centers 职业技能教育培训中心” (VSET centers). The World Bank funds are mainly applied to five Xinjiang vocational skill schools 职业技术学校 (VS schools). Despite the name similarity, VS schools and VSET centers are two different systems.
The five VS schools receiving World Bank funds are Xinjiang Engineering College 新疆工程学院 (XEC), Xinjiang Agricultural Vocational & Technical College 新疆农业职业技术学院 (XAVTC), Xinjiang Vocational & Technical College of Light Industry 新疆轻工职业技术学院 (XVTCLI), College of Xinjiang Uyghur Medicine 新疆维吾尔医学专科学校 (CXUM) and Urumqi Vocational University 乌鲁木齐职业大学 (UVU). Based on my review of public documents and satellite images, it is more likely these five VS schools are providing real technical and vocational trainings and not related to VSET centers.
However, as part of World Bank’s project, these five VS schools are partnering with and providing comprehensive assistance to 对口帮扶 or directly managing 托管 several VS schools in South Xinjiang, several of which may have connections with VSET centers. It should be noted that the partnership developed before the mass internment happened.
As the above World Bank’s document suggests, XAVTC is tasked with assisting the restructuring of Kashgar’s VS school system. Kashgar’s four VS schools, including Kashgar Agricultural School, Agricultural Machinery School, Finance & Trade School, Technician School 农业学校、农机校、财贸学校、技工学校 are merged and consolidated into Kashgar Regional Secondary Vocational School 喀什地区中等职业学校. The consolidation appeared to be completed in August 2016. In March or April 2017, the campuses of Agricultural School and Finance & Trade School were transformed into re-education camps.
Under World Bank’s project, XAVTC also manages Yarkant Technician School 莎车县技工学校. A tender notice suggests this school spent 215 thousands RMB to purchase security equipments, including 100 police batons, 30 tear gas launchers. But it is not clear why this school purchase these equipment.
World Bank’s document also suggests, XVTCLI is partnered with Maralbishi Secondary Vocational School 巴楚县中等职业技术学校, which is also known as Maralbishi Vocational High School 巴楚县职业高中. A tender notice published by Maralbishi Justice Bureau in August 2017 suggests a “Legal Education Conversion School” was planned to operate in the campus of this Maralbishi Vocational High School. Legal Education Conversion School is a name commonly used to refer to re-education camps. VS schools are usually managed by Education Bureau. In contrast, this tender notice is from Justice Bureau which is also often responsible for managing re-education camps, although later this responsibility is usually reassigned to newly founded VSET Bureau. There are similar tender notices for Legal Education Conversion Schools in Maralbishi’s industrial park, prison, former Public Security Bureau. It should be noted that project fund in the Maralbishi Vocational High School tender notice is relatively low (3.15 million RMB). The satellite images does not suggest there is significant change in the campus after the publishing of tender notice. There is also no typical security measure which can be found in many re-education camps such as razor wire fences and watch towers.
Earlier In February 2017, this Maralbishi Vocational High School hosted a short term intensive military style “education training”. But it is not entirely clear if this kind of “education training” is part of VSET system.
Another concern is VS schools and VSET centers may share some personnel. Although there is no evidence suggesting the VS schools in the World Bank project has personnel overlap with any VSET centers, it is possibly common for VSET centers to “borrow” VS school teachers. For example, half of Karakax Vocational Skill School teachers are transferred to VSET center. This is possibly because VSET center often incorporates some vocational skill trainings.
We should always be aware that Xinjiang’s VSET system is so pervasive that it is difficult for projects and companies in Xinjiang to keep a safe distance from it. World Bank should ensure extra transparency in its Xinjiang projects to keep ethics and social responsibility.