Western countries including the United States and Australia have called on China to stop detaining Uighurs and other Muslims in secret political re-education camps, which activists say hold one million people.
But China rejected the criticism of its suspected mass detention and heavy surveillance of Uighurs in the western region of Xinjiang, dismissing the allegations as "seriously far away from facts".
"We will not accept the politically driven accusations from a few countries that are fraught with biases and in total disregard of the facts," Le Yucheng — Chinese vice-minister of foreign affairs, who headed a 66-member delegation — told the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Both countries called for officials to release jailed human rights activists, with Mr Cassayre specifically naming Wang Quanzhang, Ilham Tohti and Huang Qi.
Beijing should "halt massive imprisonment" and "guarantee freedom of religion and belief, including in Tibet and Xinjiang," French ambassador Francois Rivasseau said.
John Fisher of Human Rights Watch said after the debate that China had "failed to offer credible explanations" for grave violations, including "political education" camps.
Up to 1,000 Tibetan and Uighur protesters from around Europe protested outside the UN headquarters in Geneva during the debate. They carried signs saying "STOP China ethnic cleansing of Uighurs" and "Tibet dying, China lies".