The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is advising those thinking of travelling to Xinjiang to exercise increased caution, despite the Chinese consulate here asking Kiwis to see the region with their own eyes.
China is facing international condemnation for its treatment of the ethnic minority Uyghurs, including claims that they are being put into a network of concentration camps and being restricted from contact with the outside world.
Leaked documents appeared to show China was deliberately forcing the Uyghurs to be more like the wider Mandarin-speaking Han Chinese population, and that an estimated one million had been put into secretive concentration camps.
The documents also indicated Chinese officials were instructed in 2017 to deport or detain two suspected New Zealanders flagged by a mass-surveillance programme.
The existence of the camps were initially denied by Beijing, but was now being described as "vocational training centres" and part of its efforts to combat terrorism.
Auckland-based China Vice-Consul Ankai Chen insisted that freedom of religious belief - including those of the Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities - were being strongly protected in Xinjiang.
"There are nearly 200 million religious believers in China. From 1990 to 2016, thousands of violent and terrorist incidents occurred in Xinjiang, which caused heavy casualties and property losses," Chen told the Herald.
"Under such circumstances, Xinjiang lawfully fought violent and terrorist crimes while addressing the root causes, and it hasn't seen a single violent, terrorist incident over the past three years."
Chen said the region now enjoyed "sustained economic development, social stability, better living standards and unprecedented cultural vivacity and a harmonious coexistence of religions".
"China welcomes foreigners with an objective and fair mind to visit Xinjiang, to see with their own eyes the remarkable achievement of the region," Chen added.
Two "from New Zealand" were identified to be among those to be detained or deported in 2017 according to documents leaked in November.
An Mfat spokeswoman said at the time it had no information which suggested Kiwis were being held in Xinjiang but did not rule it out.
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"There is no change to our previous response. The ministry does not have information indicating that any New Zealand citizens are currently detained in Xinjiang," she said.
However, the spokeswoman said travellers to Xinjiang should exercise increased caution.
On safetravel.govt.nz, visitors are warned that incidents of violent unrest are possible and security checks, curfews and restrictions on movement may be imposed or adjusted with little warning.
Travellers are also asked to carry photo identification at all times.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also told reporters at a press conference last month that she had privately raised human rights with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a trip to China earlier last year.
CNN reported on Thursday that China also appeared to be destroying traditional Uyghur cemeteries as part of this co-ordinated campaign to control Islamic beliefs.
Looking through satellite images taken over the years, it identified more than 100 cemeteries had either been destroyed or were no longer there.
The US State Department said up to two million people from Muslim ethnic minorities, including Uyghurs, have been held in detention camps since 2017.
Amnesty International reported that contact with the outside world for Xinjiang Uyghurs remains limited. It said those taking calls from abroad faced increased police scrutiny and were sometimes detained by authorities.
Uyghurs in Auckland did not want to comment when approached by the Herald.