UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet could visit Xinjiang later this year ©Getty Images

The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights could visit the Xinjiang region of China - where the country is accused of committing a "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims - after the conclusion of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.

Reuters reported the office of Michelle Bachelet had confirmed conversations had been held over a possible trip to Xinjiang in the first half of this year.

Should Bachelet travel to the region, it would provide a rare opportunity for a foreign official to scrutinise alleged human rights violations which led to a diplomatic boycott of Beijing 2022 by countries including the United States and sparked widespread international concern.

The South China Morning Post, citing an unnamed source, reported approval for Bachelet's visit would only be granted if it was a "friendly" trip and not an investigation of any kind.

"The parameters of that visit are still very much under discussion," Bachelet's spokesperson Rupert Colville told a UN briefing.

The build-up to Beijing 2022 has been dominated by human rights concerns ©Getty Images
The build-up to Beijing 2022 has been dominated by human rights concerns ©Getty Images

China has allowed visits to Xinjiang from journalists and diplomats in recent years, but they have taken place under tightly-controlled conditions.

The country has faced accusations of using forced Uyghur labour, operating a mass surveillance programme, detaining thousands in internment camps, carrying out forced sterilisations and intentionally destroying Uyghur heritage in the region.

Beijing denies the charges laid against it and claims the camps are training centres for stamping out Islamist extremism and separatism.

UN secretary general António Guterres is set to travel to Beijing for the Winter Olympics, which open on Friday (February 4).

Human rights groups have urged Guterres to turn down the invitation, claiming his presence in the Chinese capital would "undermine" the UN and would be a "kick in the teeth for all human rights defenders".