China says the U.N. counterterrorism chief is visiting this week at its invitation.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang on Friday confirmed the visit by Undersecretary General Vladimir Ivanovich Voronkov but didn't comment on reports he is going to the restive Xinjiang region in China's far west.

Human Rights Watch criticized the United Nations for sending a counterterrorism instead of a human rights official, saying it would help deflect attention from human rights abuses.

China has faced growing international criticism over internment camps in Xinjiang that hold an estimated 1 million members of the Uighur (WEE-gur) and other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups.

Chinese officials have described the camps as vocational training centers and say they are necessary to curb religious extremism.