A woman walks below surveillance cameras in Akto, south of Kashgar, in China’s western Xinjiang region.

GREG BAKER | AFP | Getty Images

China tried to get World Bank loans to fund facial recognition technology for the purpose of using it in the Chinese region of Xinjiang, according to a report by news website Axios on Wednesday.

The country reportedly wanted to tap on a World Bank loan program in Xinjiang, where Beijing has been widely condemned for human rights abuses and deep surveillance on Muslim minority groups.

The Chinese asked for funding to buy facial recognition and night vision cameras, and other surveillance technology, for use in Xinjiang schools, the report said, citing official World Bank procurement documents.

The World Bank told Axios that request was not met. Its loan program, which provides $50 million over five years to schools and their partners in the region, has been flagged for possible complicity in China’s repression on Muslim groups.

The World Bank did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Beijing has been heavily criticized by the U.S. and other countries at the United Nations for detaining ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims, and setting up what it calls “vocational training centers” in remote Xinjiang for “re-education,” to stamp out what Beijing brands as “extremism.”

But accusations leveled at China have painted a different picture of approximately more than a million Muslim ethnic minorities being imprisoned and subject to indoctrination and torture.

One of the schools funded by the World Bank requested a facial recognition system that can create a “blacklist face database” — that helps identify Xinjiang ethnic minorities, and is capable of sending photos straight to Chinese police, according to the Axios report.

Read the full report by Axios.



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China reportedly sought World Bank funding for surveillance in Xinjiang

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