A Tibetan monk set himself on fire Monday to protest the lack of religious freedom in China, the second such protest in five months. Yesterday the government announced a “strike hard” campaign aimed at the Muslim Uighur minority in the northeastern territory of Xinjiang. Meanwhile, the authorities are tightening control over mainstream Christian churches, stepping up arrests of Catholic priests.
There are few voices exposing the mistreatment of Tibetans and Uighurs, but Catholics have leaders who are beginning to fight back. Last month the Vatican excommunicated two bishops ordained by the state-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, citing church law that clergymen can only be ordained with the pope’s blessing. Benedict XVI also deplored the Communist Party’s belligerent handling of the ordinations—which went so far as to kidnap priests who are in communion with Rome and force them to take part in the ordinations. Now Beijing is detaining priests who refuse to comply with the Party’s demands.