Tuesday 19 January 2021
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China criticises pope over comment on Uyghur Muslim minority

China and the Vatican have had no formal relations since the Communist Party cut ties and arrested Catholic clerics soon after seizing power in 1949

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Politics World China criticises pope over comment on Uyghur Muslim minority

China criticised Pope Francis today over a passage in his new book in which he mentions the suffering of Uyghur Muslims under the communist regime. Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Francis’ remarks had “no factual basis at all.”

“People of all ethnic groups enjoy the full rights of survival, development, and freedom of religious belief,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.

Zhao made no mention of the camps in which more than 1 million Uyghurs and members of other Chinese Muslim minority groups live detained. The US and other governments, along with human rights groups, say the prison-like facilities separate Muslims from their religious and cultural heritage, forcing them to declare loyalty to the Communist Party of China (CCP) and its leader, Xi Jinping, the lifetime president of the country.

China, which initially denied the existence of these concentration camps, now says they are centres intended to provide job training and prevent terrorism and religious extremism on a voluntary basis.

In his new book Let Us Dream, due for release 1 December, Pope Francis listed the “poor Uyghurs” among examples of groups persecuted for their faith.

Pope Francis wrote about the need to see the world from the peripheries and the margins of society, “to places of sin and misery, of exclusion and suffering, of illness and solitude.”

In such places of suffering, “I think often of persecuted peoples: the Rohingya, the poor Uyghurs, the Yazidi — what ISIS did to them was truly cruel — or Christians in Egypt and Pakistan killed by bombs that went off while they prayed in (the) church,” Pope Francis wrote.

Pope Francis has declined to call out China for its crackdown on religious minorities, including Catholics, much to the dismay of the Trump administration and human rights groups. The Vatican last month renewed its controversial agreement with Beijing on nominating Catholic bishops. Pope Francis has been careful to not say or do anything to offend the Chinese government on the subject.

China and the Vatican have had no formal relations since the Communist Party cut ties and arrested Catholic clerics soon after seizing power in 1949.

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