Pope Francis first mentions Chinese Uyghurs as “persecuted”

“I often think of persecuted peoples: the Rohingya, the poor Uyghurs, the Yazidis – which ISIS was really cruel to them – or Christians killed in Egypt and Pakistan by bombs praying in the temple. In his new book, Monday: Road to the towards a better future “.

The U.S. State Department said two million Uyghurs, who are predominantly Muslims, and other minority groups have been transported to huge detention centers in Xinjiang, where former detainees are described as being indoctrinated, physically abused, and sterilized.

Beijing insists that the camps be vocational training centers built to address the threat of religious extremism and denies allegations of widespread human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Pope Francis watches as he celebrates Easter Sunday Mass behind closed doors on April 12 at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

The pope does not detail issues related to Uyghurs in the book other than the brief mention, while talking in more detail about other persecuted groups such as the Rohingya.

The book, which contains extensive reflection on Francis ’ideas about the post-coronavirus world, was co-authored with papal biographer Austen Ivereigh in the summer of 2020.

The Vatican has extended the recently disputed agreement with Beijing over the appointment of Chinese mainland bishops.

Beijing has long insisted on the final word on all bishop appointments in the country, but the 2018 agreement put an end to the two-decade tension between the two sides, which in 1951 severed official diplomatic relations.

Details of the agreement were never made public and were criticized by some, including U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular news conference on Tuesday that Pope Francis’ inclusion of Uyghurs on the list of persecuted peoples was “completely unfounded.”

“There are 56 ethnic groups in China and the Uyghur ethnic group is an equal member of the large family of the Chinese nation. The Chinese government has always treated (all) minority groups equally and protected its legitimate rights and interests,” he said.