China on Monday rejected US criticism of the UN counterterrorism chief's visit to the restive region of Xinjiang as "absurd" after Washington warned it could serve to legitimise Beijing's crackdown on Muslim minorities.
Chinese authorities have placed an estimated one million people, many of them ethnic Uighurs, in internment camps in Xinjiang that Beijing downplays as "vocational education centres" needed to steer people away from extremism.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Vladimir Voronkov, the United Nations under-secretary general for counterterrorism, visited China from Thursday to Saturday, adding his trip was "very successful".
"It strengthened cooperation between China and the United Nations in the field of counterterrorism. The United Nations has also given positive comments on this visit," Lu said at a regular press briefing.
During his trip to Xinjiang, Voronkov and his delegation learned "on the spot about anti-terrorism and anti-extremism measures in Xinjiang," Lu said.
US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan called UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday to express his "deep concerns."
Sullivan told Guterres that "Beijing continues to paint its repressive campaign against Uighurs and other Muslims as legitimate counterterrorism efforts when it is not," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
"The UN's topmost counterterrorism official is putting at risk the UN's reputation and credibility on counterterrorism and human rights by lending credence to these false claims," she added.
Lu said: "I would like to say that the statements made by the relevant officials of the United States are extremely absurd."