By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, Nov. 24: The head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State Pope Francis has called the Muslim Uyghurs a “persecuted” people in a new book, overturning his silence over the treatment of the ethnic minority under the Chinese regime.
“I think often of persecuted peoples: the Rohingya, the poor Uighurs, the Yazidi,” he said in the 150 page book. The book slated for release on Dec. 1, is a collaboration with his English-language biographer, Austen Ivereigh.
The Pope’s silence on the Uyghurs over the years was seen as the Vatican’s leverage with China over the renewal of a controversial accord with Beijing on the appointment of bishops. The accord was renewed in September. The pope maintained silence over speaking on the treatment of Muslim minority in East Turkestan for years despite human rights activists urging him to do so.
The Muslim minority Uyghurs people of East Turkestan or the so called Xinjiang saw mass incarceration of nearly a million people in what is described as modern day concentration camps by China. Beijing has maintained that the facilities are vocational centers despite overwhelming evidence on the contrary.
“The alleged comment by Pope Francis on Uygur mistreatment in Xinjiang in his new biography is not based on the facts and Xinjiang has reached its best time in history, and people of all ethnic groups enjoy the rights to life and development,” a Chinese foreign ministry’s spokesperson was quoted as saying on Tuesday by Chinese state media Global Times.