China on Friday said it welcomed a possible visit to the country’s far western region of Xinjiang by the United Nations’ rights chief but stopped short of confirming dates for the visit. The South China Morning Post reported on Thursday that China had agreed to host a visit to Xinjiang by UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet in the first half of the year after the Beijing Winter Olympics. Asked about the visit on Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China had been negotiating with Bachelet. “The Chinese side welcomes the visit to China, including Xinjiang , by the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Ms Michelle Bachelet. We have sent the invitation a long time ago and both sides have maintained communication on the matter,” Zhao said. “The Chinese position has been clear and consistent that the goal of the visit is to promote exchanges and cooperation between the two sides. We oppose anyone who uses this matter for political manipulation.” Zhao also said China had achieved economic prosperity and stability in Xinjiang , and it opposed any effort to use the Xinjiang issue to “attack and smear China”. The UN’s top human rights official has been negotiating with Beijing since September 2018 to go to Xinjiang, where some 1 million Uygurs are alleged to have been held in mass detention camps. Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN Human Rights Office said the discussions about a possible visit in the first half of this year were continuing and it was crucial for the high commissioner to have “meaningful, unfettered access to the Xinjiang region” . “The parameters of that visit are still being discussed. High commissioner visits are undertaken to get first-hand insight into the situation on the ground and to engage constructively with all stakeholders on the human rights situation,” Colville said. “It is important that such a visit be meaningful, with unsupervised access to a wide range of civil society actors and locations as well as high-level engagement with government officials.” Sources said Bachelet recently secured Beijing’s approval for a visit to the region sometime after the Games, which start on February 4, on the condition that the trip should be “friendly” in nature and not framed as an investigation. Beijing also insisted that Bachelet’s office hold off on publishing a report into Xinjiang ahead of the Games, as requested by Washington, the sources said. Washington is doubling down on its allegations of China’s “ ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang ” – angrily dismissed by Beijing, which sees them as designed to undermine China and its efforts to host the Games. The US and some of its allies – including Britain, Canada and Australia – have said they will not send official diplomatic delegations to the Games in protest against China’s human rights record.