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Pope Francis refers to China's Uighur Muslims as a 'persecuted' for first time

More than one million Uighurs are believed to languish in camps in China's Xinjiang [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 November, 2020

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In a new book, the Pope acknowledged China's Uighurs as a 'persecuted' people, a claim the Chinese FM dismissed as 'groundless'.
Pope Francis has for the first time called China's Muslim Uighurs a "persecuted" people, breaking his long-time silence on human rights violation allegations in China's Xinjiang region.

"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 church," Francis says in his new book, according to CNN.

The book, a 150-page collaberation with Austen Ivereigh,  "Let Us Dream: The Path to A Better Future," was published on Monday and will go on sale on December 1.

Francis also speaks of the need to address political inequalities through economic, social and political changes.

The pope has previously spoken out against the persecution of Rohingya and Yazidis, but is speaking about the oppression against Uighurs for the first time, after years of receiving calls from rights groups to publicly acknowledge the violations.

Read also: Pope deplores 'fragile truce' in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Beijing has repeatedly rejected the allegations as an attempt to discredit China, claiming the camps are for "re-education".

The Chinese foreign ministry was quick to reject the Pope's comments as "groundless".

"The Chinese government has always protected the legal rights of ethnic minorities equally," foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian told a media briefing. "The remarks by Pope Francis are groundless."

Rights groups say that more than one million Uighurs languish in camps in the Xinjiang region as China seeks to forcibly integrate the community and root out their Islamic heritage.

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