FILE - In this file photo dated Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang speaks during a daily briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Beijing. Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Friday, June 14, 2019, confirmed the visit by U.N. counterterrorism chief, undersecretary general Vladimir Ivanovich Voronkov but didn’t comment on reports he is going to the restive Xinjiang region in China’s far west. (Andy Wong, FILE/Associated Press)

BEIJING — The United Nations counterterrorism chief is visiting China this week, the foreign ministry said Friday.

Vladimir Ivanovich Voronkov, the undersecretary-general of the U.N. counterterrorism office, is in China at the country’s invitation, ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. He didn’t comment on reports Voronkov is going to the restive Xinjiang region in China’s far west.

“More specific information will be released in time,” Geng said at a daily briefing.

Human Rights Watch criticized the United Nations for sending a counterterrorism official instead of a human rights expert, saying it risks deflecting attention from what it called “a massive government rights violation against the Turkic Muslim population.”

China has faced international criticism over internment camps in Xinjiang that hold an estimated 1 million members of the Uighur and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups.

Chinese officials describe the camps as vocational training centers and say they are necessary to curb religious extremism.

Geng said China would welcome a visit by the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, but added, “we will never allow people with political purposes to interfere in China’s internal affairs and damage China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity with their visit to Xinjiang.”

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