China Slams Pope For Referring to Muslim Uighurs as 'Persecuted'

Published November 25th, 2020 - 09:27 GMT
Pope Francis prays with priests at the end of a limited public audience at the San Damaso courtyard in The Vatican on September 30, 2020 during the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP
Pope Francis prays with priests at the end of a limited public audience at the San Damaso courtyard in The Vatican on September 30, 2020 during the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP
Highlights
Book Let Us Dream: The Path to A Better Future calls them 'persecuted peoples'.

Pope Francis has sparked fury in China by referring to the country's Muslim Uighurs as a 'persecuted' people in a book set for release next month.

In the book Let Us Dream: The Path to A Better Future, Francis says: 'I think often of persecuted peoples: the Rohingya, the poor Uighurs, the Yazidi.'

While Francis has spoken out before about the Rohingya who have fled Myanmar, and the killing of Yazidi by Islamic State in Iraq, the book is the first time he has mentioned the Uighurs. 

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian today rejected Francis's description of the Uighurs in his 150-page collaboration with his English-language biographer, Austen Ivereigh.

Zhao told a media briefing: 'The Chinese government has always protected the legal rights of ethnic minorities equally.'

He said people of all ethnicities in Xinjiang enjoy full protection of their subsistence rights, developmental rights and religious freedom.

'The remarks by Pope Francis are groundless,' he said.  

Faith leaders, activist groups and governments have said crimes against humanity and genocide are taking place against Uighurs in China's Xinjiang region, where more than 1 million people are held in camps.

Beijing has rejected the allegations as an attempt to discredit China, saying the camps are vocational education and training centres as part of counter-terrorism and deradicalisation measures.

Last month, during a conference at the Vatican, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted China over its treatment of Uighurs.

Many commentators have said the Vatican was reluctant to speak out on the Uighurs earlier because it was in the process of renewing a controversial accord with Beijing on the appointment of bishops. 

The accord, which Pompeo urged the Vatican to abandon, was renewed in September. 

In the wide-ranging book Francis also says the Covid-19 pandemic should spur governments to consider permanently establishing a universal basic income.


Francis gives his clearest support to date to the controversial policy espoused by some economists and sociologists in which governments give a fixed amount of money to each citizen with no conditions attached.

UBI was a cornerstone of the campaign of Andrew Yang last year during the Democratic presidential primaries in the United States.

'Recognising the value to society of the work of nonearners is a vital part of our rethinking in the post-Covid world. That's why I believe it is time to explore concepts like the universal basic income (UBI) ...' he said.

'By providing a universal basic income, we can free and enable people to work for the community in a dignified way,' he said.

Francis again criticised trickle-down economics, the theory favoured by conservatives that tax breaks and other incentives for big business and the wealthy eventually will benefit the rest of society through investment and job creation.

He called it 'the false assumption of the infamous trickle-down theory that a growing economy will make us all richer.'

Francis also says people who see wearing masks as an imposition by the state are 'victims only in their imagination' and praises those who protested against the death of George Floyd in police custody for rallying around the 'healthy indignation' that united them.

Let Us Dream: The Path to A Better Future goes on sale on December 1. 

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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