Photo/Illutration Uighur security personnel patrol near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in western China's Xinjiang region on Nov. 4, 2017. (AP file photo)

BEIJING--China has agreed to let the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights visit Xinjiang in the first half of 2022 after the Beijing Winter Olympics, according to a report in the South China Morning Post which cited unnamed sources.

Rights groups have accused China of perpetrating widescale abuses against Uighurs and other minority groups in its western region of Xinjiang, including mass detention, torture and forced labor. The United States has accused China of genocide.

Beijing denies all allegations of abuse of Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims and has described its policies as necessary to combat religious extremism.

U.N. human rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet has been pursuing negotiations with China on a visit since September 2018.

China’s foreign ministry, China’s mission to the United Nations in New York, and the United Nations did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The South China Morning Post report on Thursday cited sources saying that the approval for a visit after the conclusion of the Beijing Winter Games, which run Feb. 4-20, was granted on the condition the trip should be “friendly” and not framed as an investigation.

As in 2008, the Olympics have again cast a spotlight on China’s human rights record, which critics say has worsened since then, leading Washington to call Beijing’s treatment of Uighur Muslims genocide and prompting a diplomatic boycott from the United States and other countries.

“No one, especially the world’s leading human rights diplomat, should be fooled by the Chinese government’s efforts to distract attention away from its crimes against humanity targeting Uighurs and other Turkic communities,” Sophie Richardson, China Director at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters in an emailed statement on Friday.