BEIJING (Dispatches) -- EU observers are free to visit Xinjiang to "truly understand” the situation in the northwestern region where the West accuses Beijing of widespread rights abuses against the Uighur population, China said Tuesday.
The U.S. and the Europeans claim that over a million Uighurs languish in political reeducation camps, and that an alleged campaign of forced assimilation has targeted academics, religious leaders and activists from mostly Muslim minority groups.
On Monday the European Union pressed China to let its independent observers into Xinjiang, binding human rights to future trade and investment deals with Beijing.
In response a foreign ministry spokesman said the bloc was "welcome” to visit the area "to truly understand the real situation and not rely on hearsay.”
"The EU has raised their desire to visit Xinjiang, China has already agreed and is willing to make arrangements,” Wang Wenbin told reporters.
Beijing describes its Xinjiang camps as vocational training centers where education is given to lift the population out of poverty and to chisel away at radicalism.
China says criticism of its handling of Xinjiang is politically motivated, and based on lies about what happens in the vast facilities it has built.
In December China also invited Arsenal footballer Mesut Ozil to visit Xinjiang and see the situation for himself after he decried the treatment of the Uighurs.
On Monday U.S. customs said it would bar a raft of Chinese products including cotton, garments and hair products, from Xinjiang over purported fears they were made using forced labor.
China on Tuesday slammed the U.S. move as "bullying” and dismissed accusations of forced labor as "a complete fabrication.”
The U.S. trade action is the latest in a series of steps by the Trump administration targeting Chinese authorities and businesses in line with Washington’s economic war on Beijing to confront its meteoric rise.