Beijing has dismissed Pope Francis's criticisms of its treatment of China's Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang. It came after the head of the Roman Catholic Church joined a growing group of international voices, describing the Uighurs as "persecuted" in a new book. It is believed that the Chinese government has detained up to a million Uighurs in what the state defines as "re-education camps". China's foreign ministry said the Pope's remarks were "groundless".
In his book Let Us Dream: The Path to A Better Future, Pope Francis writes that "I think often of persecuted peoples: the Rohingya, the poor Uighurs, the Yazidi". It is the first time he mentions the Uighurs in that context. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian responded saying Beijing "has always protected the legal rights of ethnic minorities equally".