U.S. lawmakers demand answers on World Bank policy on Taiwanese staff

Employees who are not nationals of a World Bank member country or a country in which the World Bank group operates are able to retain their current employment status, according to a spokesperson. (Shutterstock)

WASHINGTON (CNA) — Several U.S. congressmen have urged the World Bank to explain its hiring policy, which has been described as unfair to Taiwanese employees, as it requires them to hold Chinese passports if they want to keep their jobs, although the requirement has never been adopted.

Republican Senator Jim Risch, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez, along with House Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Friday wrote a joint letter to World Bank Group (WBG) President David Malpass for an explanation on its policy regarding Taiwanese staff.

In December, U.S.-based news website Axios revealed that World Bank human resources staffers told Taiwanese nationals that they can only be hired by the institution if they hold identification documents issued by the People’s Republic of China rather than the Republic of China (Taiwan).

While the World Bank revised its hiring policy regarding Taiwanese employees in the wake of the Axios report, the four U.S. congressmen still asked for answers from the bank on the matter.

They said they wrote to express their “deep concern” over the World Bank’s hiring practices because they might be inconsistent with the bank’s code of conduct.

“Our interest in this issue stems from a broader concern: that the PRC government continues to assert its view in international organizations that Taiwan is a part of China,” the U.S. lawmakers said.

“However, this view is inconsistent with United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758, which is silent on the question of China’s claim that Taiwan is part of China,” they said. “In addition, it is not a consensus view among all U.N. member states that Taiwan is part of the PRC.”

In response to the Axios report, a World Bank spokesperson, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told CNA that the employment guidance on the bank’s internal website dates back to 1999, although the guidelines have never been adopted by the bank as policy.

The spokesperson added that when World Bank senior management was made aware of the Axios report, the bank took immediate steps to amend the guidance so that employees who are not nationals of a World Bank member country or a country in which the World Bank group operates can retain their current employment status.

The lawmakers asked Malpass for answers on several questions, including whether the World Bank has any recent formal written guidance indicating that its employees who are not nationals of a member country or territories where the bank has operations can retain their current employment status.

“The discriminatory application of a preference for hiring from member states towards persons from Taiwan appears to violate the WBG’s own commitment to excellence and non-discrimination,” the lawmakers said.

They asked the World Bank to reply in two weeks.

The World Bank has 189 member countries but Taiwan is not included.

Currently, the World Bank has three employees who hold passports issued by Taiwan, sources familiar with the matter said in December.