Laogai Research Foundation

December, 1995 Newsletter

Laogai Research Foundation Issues
Report on World Bank Activity in China

A World Bank project in the People’s Republic of China benefits the Laogai and the Chinese Army, according to a new report by the Laogai Research Foundation.

The report, released at a press conference in Washington, D.C. on October 23, 1995, discloses that a large World Bank-funded irrigation project in remote Xinjiang Province is benefitting at least twenty-one forced labor camps, and thirty special farms run by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The sources for the report include a World Bank document, official Chinese government documents, and information collected in Xinjiang by Harry Wu in an April 1994 trip to the region.

In a staff analysis of the project, known as the Tarim Basin Project, the World Bank neglected to mention either the existence of the Laogai camps or the extensive Production and Construction Corps operations run by the PLA.

The Tarim Basin Project is divided into three parts: The Yerquiang Irrigation Scheme, the Weigan Irrigation Scheme, and the Tarim Eco-Restoration Component. The Project intends to reclaim up to 80,000 hectares (approximately 200,000 acres) of desert land, rehabilitate and upgrade the existing irrigation to increase production output of low yield land, build a twenty-one megawatt hydropower station, improve transportation infrastructure, and make some other minor agricultural improvements.

An article from the Xinjiang Legal Journal, translated by the LRF, acknowledges that "Xinjiang is one of the provinces where our country’s Laogai system plays a comparatively important role" by turning the desert into farm land. Reclaiming the edges of the Taklimakan Desert in Xinjiang for cotton and grain production is one of the objectives of the $90 million World Bank project. In the area covered by the project, there are at least seven Laogai camps run by the Ministry of Justice and at least fourteen run by an arm of the People’s Liberation Army.

Because of the Uygurs and the fact that Xinjiang borders Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, India, Pakistan, Mongolia, Tibet and Russia, the province has a large PLA presence. The PLA’s role in Xinjiang is quite different than its operations in other provinces. Among the differences is the existence of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.

The Corps is a quasi-military organization with its own headquarters in Urumqi, the provincial capital. Those forced to join the Corps are rarely allowed to return to their original homes and workplaces, even after having been officially "rehabilitated." Belonging to the Corps is the equivalent of internal exile. The total number of prisoners is estimated to be 100,000.

The World Bank Project Appraisal Report ignores the existence of the Corps in the Tarim Basin area. However, there are twenty-eight Corps agricultural regiments clearly marked on maps throughout the area.

The Laogai, forced labor camps, are run by the Ministry of Justice in the Tarim Basin area. Since 1978, according to Chinese government documents, more than 100,000 prisoners have been shipped to Xinjiang camps. Among the principalities and provinces known to have exiled prisoners are Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Liaoning, and Anhui.

The LRF has gathered evidence which proves there are at least seven Laogai camps in the Tarim Basin area. While the exact number of prisoner is not known, it is estimated to be between 25,000 and 60,000.

The LRF report called upon the World Bank to (1) appoint an independent international commission to investigate the Tarim Basin Project and other World Bank agricultural and infrastructure projects in China for their use of forced labor (2) adopt an official policy that bars the use of forced labor on all Bank projects and impose sanctions against violators, and (3) develop a training program for Bank staffers to sensitize them to the reality of forced labor and how to prevent its exploitation in Bank activities.

The World Bank, according to Reuters, "committed to China a total of $23 billion for 159 projects, with annual commitments of around $3 billion. China became its largest customer in 1993.


For more information about the Laogai Research Foundation, please contact:

The Laogai Research Foundation
P.O. Box 361375
Milpitas, CA 95036-1375

or send e-mail to