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Chinese banks criticized on human rights

December 2006

The Chinese government and the banks it owns have been attacked for ignoring human rights and environmental standards in their involvement in Africa.

Paul Wolfowitz, the World Bank president, told a French business newspaper that China, as well as India and Venezuela, were lending to poor African nations that had only recently been helped to emerge from burdensome debt.

He said: ‘There is a real risk of seeing countries that have benefited from debt relief become heavily indebted once more. If it’s a matter of buying luxury cars for ministers, it is bad borrowing. On the other hand, good borrowing delivers big benefits, lifts national income and makes it easier to repay the national debt in the future.’ The World Bank, he said, had held ‘very direct’ talks with Chinese leaders about its worries over Africa.

China has already been criticized strongly in the West for its substantial investment in Sudan, especially in oil production.

Zhai Jun, China’s assistant foreign minister, said Africa was rich in resources and offered a big market, and China was simply seeking mutual benefits in an open manner.

A World Bank study has reported that Africa now sells 27 per cent of its exports to Asia, about the same level as to the US and to Europe. Asian exports to Africa are increasing by 18 per cent a year.



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