Pope Francis has criticized China for its treatment of the Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjian. Now Beijing has dismissed the Pope's comments.
The dismissal came after the head of the Roman Catholic Church joined a growing group of international voices expressing concern about help in concentration camps in Xinjian. The Pope described the Uighurs as persecuted in a new book.
It is believed that the Chinese government has detained up to a million Uighurs in what they define as a re-education camp. The foreign ministry of China said that Pope Francis' remarks were groundless, according to The Guardian.
In the Pope's new book "Let Us Dream: The Path to A Better Future," Pope Francis writes that he often thinks of the persecuted people: the Rohingya, the Uighurs, and the Yazidi. This is said to be the first time that he had mentioned the Uighurs in that context.
The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian responded to the Pope and said that Beijing has always protected the legal rights of ethnic minorities in the country equally, according to CNN.
Beijing is believed to have detained more than a million people from Xinjian in the past few years, citing security risks and terrorism. It has also been alleged that the Chinese are forcing Uighur women to be sterilized or fitted with contraceptive devices to control population growth.
Meanwhile, China had denied the existence of the camps before stating that the internment sites provide job training and education for the minorities.
The Uighurs are a mostly Muslim Turkic ethnicity who regard themselves as ethnically and culturally close to Central Asian nations. Like in Xinjiang province in China, most Uighurs are about 11 million people or around 45% of the population.
According to observers, the government policies have gradually curtailed the Uighurs' commercial, religious and cultural activities over the years, as massive numbers of majority Han Chinese have been encouraged to move to the region.
The United States had blocked some exports from China's Xinjiang region over alleged human rights abuses against the Uighur minority. The US government stated that forced labor was used to make the products.
The export ban includes cotton, garments, hair products, and computer parts from five entities in the Xinjiang and Anhui provinces.
Kenneth Cuccinelli, the Department of Homeland Security's acting secretary, said that the human rights violations done to the Uighur demand an extraordinary response.
The move was done by the Trump administration to put pressure on China over the inhumane situation in Xinjiang, according to BBC.
After the announcement, China hit back at the US over the block on exports. Wang Wenbin, the foreign ministry spokesperson, said that the Western media had fabricated accusations of forced labor.
China maintains that the so-called "concentration camps" are really training centers that provide jobs, education, and training needed to combat separatist threats and terrorism.
Aside from women being forcibly subjected to birth control methods to prevent the growth of the Uighur, it is also reported that thousands of children were separated from their parents.