In his new book, out on 1 December, the pontiff mentions the suffering of Xinjiang’s Muslim minority. For China, the Pope’s remarks have "no factual basis at all". The internment camps are a tragedy. For analysts, the Pope is cautious on the subject so as not to wreck the agreement on episcopal appointments.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – The Chinese government has criticised Pope Francis for his comments on Uyghur suffering in Xinjiang.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that 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.
The comments in question are in the Pope’s new book, Let Us Dream, due for release on 1 December.
In it, the Holy Father mentions the persecution of the Uyghurs along with that of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Yazidis in Iraq, and Christians in Egypt and Pakistan.
According to experts, backed by the United Nations, more than million Uyghurs (out of a population of nearly 10 million) and members of other Turkish-speaking Islamic minorities have been arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang, which the indigenous people call East Turkestan.
Human rights activists and many governments, including the United States and the European Union, describe the detention centres as actual internment camps.
After denying their existence for years, Beijing now defines them as educational establishments to fight terrorism, separatism and Islamic extremism.
This is the first time the pontiff spoke out on the repression of a religious minority in China.
According to several observers, his caution stems from a desire to reach an agreement for the renewal of the Sino-Vatican agreement on the appointment of Chinese bishops, which occurred last month.