China has criticized Pope Francis’ remarks about the inexplicable persecution of Uygur Muslims. Beijing has described his statement as baseless. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian claims that his country has always equally protected the legal rights of ethnic minorities.
Pope Francis recently wrote a book with his biographer Austen Ivory, titled Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future. In the 150-page book, he described the Uygars as “oppressed” people. “I think the Rohingya, poor Uygars and Yazidis have tortured people,” he wrote.
This is Pope Francis’ first commentary on the Uyghur issue. The United Nations and international human rights groups fear that more than one million Uygar Muslims have been detained without trial at Chinese detention centers. However, the Uygar Times reports that the actual number of prisoners in these camps is 3 million.
There are approximately 15 million Uighur Muslims living in China. Uygars make up 45 percent of Xinjiang’s population. This province is an autonomous region like Tibet. There are strict restrictions on the use of foreign media. But over the years, there have been reports from various sources that Beijing is tightening its back on Islamists, including the Uygars. International human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also expressed concern at the United Nations. China has always denied the allegations.
Beijing has called the state repression of Uygar Muslims a “fight against terrorism and extremism”. During a visit to China on February 22, 2019, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman expressed support for the country’s Uygar policy.
The leaked documents in February 2020 paint a picture of state oppression of Uyghur Muslims in China. These documents provide evidence of the preservation of personal information, including details of the daily lives of more than 3,000 Uygars in the Xinjiang region. Each page of the 138-page document has a separate table. These tables span how often they pray, what they wear, who they communicate with, and their family members. Even people have been arrested for beards and burqas.
Uygars are majority Muslims. Their facial features, language and culture bear more resemblance to the people of the main ethnic group Han than in Central Asia. However, over the past few decades, millions of Han Chinese have settled in Xinjiang.
When authorities started a prison camp for Uyghur Muslims in 2016, some loyalists of the ruling Communist Party worked to uncover information inside the Uyghur society. They each take care of the house for some time. They visit those houses regularly and seek information about each member of the family. Their way of life, religious belief, atmosphere of religious practice at home, ie what rituals are seen, how many Quran Sharifs are there in the house? They collect all such detailed information.