Comments of Pope Francis expressing sympathy with persecuted peoples has annoyed the totalitarian Communist regime of China. The supreme Pontiff's comments on those undergoing torture in different parts of the world come in a book due for releae on 1 December titled 'Let us Dream: The path to a Better Future', which carries hopes for the reconstruction of a post-Covid world. The high priest who says "I think often of persecuted peoples: the Rohingya, the poor Uighurs, the Yazidi.." also refers to the suffering of Christians in Egypt and Pakistan. The book contains calls for the world's attention to such parts of the world as suffer from immorality, misery, diseases and isolation. Pope's comments with sympathy for Uighurs come at a time when different governments of the world, religious leaders and activist groups raise their voice for the ethnic Turkish-speaking community of the Xinjiang province of western China, who have been victims of racial persecution and genocide at the hands of the Communist regime. China has opened special concentration camps to alienate native Muslims from their religious and cultural ethos and to exterminate those who don't yield. These camps, where a million people were herded with no access to any fundamental rights, the victims receive 'education' to give up their religion and culture and to be loyal to Xi Jin Jinping, the life-long leader of Communism and the country, as also to Han nationalism. The camps designed for casting them in the sole mould of Communism and making them abandon the religious, social and cultural identity, are a subject of world attention for their atrocious denial of human rights and torture.
But the Chinese establishment version is that they are giving training to the Uighurs de-radicalising them from 'terrorism' and 'religious extremism'. These centres were launched in 2017 ostensibly as educational centres for vocational training, but the chief agenda is a brand of brainwashing of the inmates imposing on them the Chinese script of Mandarin as much as Communist ideas. As if to justify the declared objective, the camps impart vocational training and after a fixed term, send the inmates for compulsory labour in factories. Thre is also an officially aproved mechanism of torture councils under the Communist party of Xinjiang to round up Uighurs and put them in camps for the ordeal. A report by 'International Consortium of Investigative Journalists' has revealed stories of torture and sexual abuse in the camps and excesses in the labour sector. The journalists' body had informed the outside world, quoting Chinese Cables, about the persistent hunting of Uighurs by preparing database about Uighurs using Artificial Intelligence and new technology. In a memorandum submitted to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights last July, two dozen industrialised countries had demanded steps to close down these mass jails.
Pope's words of compassion for the Uighurs come in the backdrop of such voices. But China has dismissed the Pope's remarks as having 'no factual basis'. In a statement of protest, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian explained that "people of all ethnic groups enjoy the full rights of survival, development, and freedom of religious belief". However, despite the global voices against the torture of the Uighurs, and the fact that like Muslims Catholics were also subjected to persecution, the Pope had not come out with remarks against China until this. Following the Communist party acquiring supremacy in the country, China in 1951 had detached its ties with the Vatican and Catholic bishops were arrested far and wide in the land. Thereafter the state took over all religious administration of Christian church in China, home to 12 million Roman Catholics, and the state assumed full control including appointment of bishops. Since Pope Francis took charge, he tried for a thaw in relations with the Communist leadership, leading to an interim understanding between Beijing and the Vatican in September 2018.
The world is not privy to the agreement that was exchanged in sealed form, quite inline with China's communist iron curtain. The only provision put in the public domain is that the Vatican is also entitled to express its opinion in appointment of bishops. So far, the Vatican has given approval for eight members of clergy appointed by China. Also, China appointed two bishops in consultation with the Vatican. The Vatican move had angered the US administration of Trump. However, the Pope renewed the pact with China ignoring US displeasure. China is peeved that none of these friendly gestures influenced the Pope while he expressed sympathy for brethren there. As a matter of fact, what Communist China should hasten to do is not to lodge protests at being listed among the intolerant towards religious communities, but to abstain from widely disparaged acts and to evince humanity and dignity towards minorities.