China has invited the UN human rights chief to visit Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the country’s northwest, local media reported on Wednesday.
“China has sent invitations to the high commissioner of the UN for human rights about a trip to China and Xinjiang,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin told a news conference in Beijing.
“The two sides have maintained close communication on this matter,” said Wang, according to Chinese daily Global Times.
The decision by Beijing to invite UN human rights chief comes amid the ongoing 46th UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in Geneva.
Beijing has faced massive criticism of its treatment of Uighurs who are mostly Muslims and live in the northwestern Xinjiang province.
The US and Canada designated China’s alleged persecution of Uighurs as “genocide” while Washington also restricted its trade with the region and sanctioned some Chinese firms accused of forced labor among the Uighur community.
China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the UNHRC session on Monday: “Such inflammatory accusations are fabricated out of ignorance and prejudice.”
“Xinjiang preserves the right of people’s freedom of religious belief based on law,” Wang said.
Turkey also expressed its concern over the issue.
“Turkey closely follows the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region. The findings of the UN and other international reports are cause for concern,” the country’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the first day of the session on Monday.
“We share our concerns and expectations on the matter with the Chinese authorities. We expect transparency on this issue while respecting China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said, adding that Turkey continues to follow the developments regarding the possible visit of the UN high commissioner’s team to the region.
“Upon China’s invitation, we will also send our own national team to visit the region,” Cavusoglu said.