The Xinjiang government criticised the US over its forced labour accusations and said it welcomed United Nations officials to visit the region to “see the real situation”, in the latest bid to defend heavy-handed policies in Xinjiang amid growing international pressure. A panel of 10 men, including Xinjiang government officials and industry representatives, reiterated familiar attacks against the United States and the West during a two-hour press briefing in Beijing on Thursday, saying accusations of forced labour of ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang were “pure fabrications”. Xu Guixiang, spokesman for the Xinjiang government, said forced labour claims were a “card played by anti-China forces in the West” in an attempt to disrupt the region’s stability and to contain China’s development. “Some people in the US and the West are using the name of human rights to hype up the so-called forced labour issue in Xinjiang,” he said. “Meanwhile, you can easily find bloody records if you open up US history books … they are shifting the blame and the focus to Xinjiang, with total disregard for the facts on the ground, and ignoring their own behaviour, which is despicable.” Reporters were shown six videos of interviews with workers in Xinjiang, including those from tomato and cotton factories, denying they were being forced to work and insisting they were fairly treated and compensated. Akbar Turahan, a worker at the Aksu Huafu textile plant that has been under US sanctions, spoke in person about how he was treated lawfully and well. The briefing was the 10th press conference on Xinjiang as part of Beijing’s increasingly aggressive campaign to defend its treatment of ethnic minority groups in the region – which it claims is aimed at rooting out separatism and terrorism – and to deny claims of forced labour . What is going on in Xinjiang and who are the Uygur people? As Beijing prepares to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in February, Chinese state-run media outlets have stepped up coverage intended to counter the international outcry. The Chinese government has organised controlled trips to Xinjiang for foreign media and brought diplomats from China-friendly countries such as Iran and Russia to the region. There has been mounting criticism in recent months over Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang, which some Western countries have said amount to “genocide” . Researchers and human rights groups have accused China of detaining up to a million Uygurs and others from ethnic minority groups in the far-western region, and mobilising hundreds of thousands in coercive labour schemes. In mid-May, a group of countries – including the US, Britain, Germany and Turkey – demanded China allow “immediate, meaningful and unfettered access” for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to visit Xinjiang. Xu said there were arrangements for a delegation of European Union ambassadors and Bachelet to visit the region, but repeated that there were “no grounds for an investigation into genocide or forced labour, which does not exist in Xinjiang”. Plans for the Xinjiang visit by EU ambassadors have stalled over their request to meet jailed Uygur academic Ilham Tohti. “We look forward to the EU and the UN high commissioner visiting Xinjiang as soon as possible, but of course their inspection will need to be with a fair and unbiased perspective,” Xu said. “If they come with a presumption of guilt, then we oppose this.” NBA stars pressed to end China sportswear endorsements over Xinjiang In March, the US, Britain, Canada and the EU moved to sanction Xinjiang officials over their repressive policies in the region, which Beijing has responded to with counter sanctions against Western lawmakers and scholars. The US banned imports of cotton from Xinjiang – which produces a fifth of the world’s cotton – in January over forced labour concerns, after which there were Chinese state-endorsed calls for boycotts against multinational fashion brands that said they would not source cotton from Xinjiang. In December, an analysis of Chinese government documents by the Washington-based Centre for Global Policy found that in 2018 “at least 570,000” people had been forcibly mobilised to pick cotton there. An earlier report from 2019 by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies think tank said members of ethnic minorities from Xinjiang were being urged to work in local factories under a poverty-alleviation scheme, sometimes at less than minimum wage, where they were also taught Mandarin and subjected to strict surveillance.