President of China Xi Jinping attends the plenary session during the 2023 BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on August 23, 2023. (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA / POOL / AFP)

BEIJING , China -- Chinese President Xi Jinping made a rare visit to Xinjiang on Saturday, state media reported, calling on officials to conserve "hard-won social stability" in a troubled region where Beijing is accused of severe human rights abuses.

The Chinese government has pursued a years-long campaign against what it describes as terrorism and Islamic extremism in the northwestern region, detaining large numbers of Uyghurs and other Muslims.

A United Nations report last year found China's actions in Xinjiang may constitute "crimes against humanity", and the United States and legislatures in other countries have labelled the policies a "genocide" -- claims Beijing denies.

State broadcaster CCTV said Xi travelled to regional capital Urumqi on Saturday, listened to a government work report and delivered a speech "affirming the achievements made in various tasks in Xinjiang".

It was his first publicly known visit to Xinjiang since last July, when he made his maiden trip since the crackdown in the region was escalated.

Xi "stressed that top priority must always be given to maintaining social stability... and we must use stability to guarantee development", CCTV reported.

He said it was "necessary to... combine the development of the anti-terrorism and anti-separatism struggle with the push for normalising social stability work and rule of law", according to the broadcaster.

It said Xi also urged officials to "more deeply promote the Sinicisation of Islam and effectively control illegal religious activities".

"We must enhance our awareness of adversities... and consolidate our hard-won social stability," he said, according to CCTV.

"In the process of Chinese-style modernisation, we will better build a beautiful Xinjiang that is united and harmonious, wealthy and prosperous."

Rights campaigners, overseas researchers and members of the Uyghur diaspora accuse China of committing a litany of abuses in Xinjiang.

They include detaining over a million Muslims in a network of extralegal facilities, exposing them to forced labour, compulsory sterilisation and political indoctrination, and destroying their cultural and religious sites.

Beijing vehemently rejects the allegations, saying the facilities were vocational and voluntary training centres from which people have "graduated".

It has said the claims are part of a US-led plot to smear China and contain its rise, and has attempted to push back on what it views as negative Western press coverage in Xinjiang.

In Saturday's speech, Xi said officials must "strengthen positive publicity and show Xinjiang's new atmosphere of openness and self-confidence... (while) refuting all forms of false public opinion and negative or harmful speech", CCTV reported.

The region should also open up further to domestic and foreign tourism, Xi said, according to the broadcaster.