China hits back at critical U.S. human rights report

BEIJING Fri May 25, 2012 5:44pm IST

A girl holds a U.S. and Chinese flag as she waits for U.S. President Barack Obama to welcome Chinese President Hu Jintao during an official south lawn arrival ceremony at the White House in Washington January 19, 2011. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/Files

A girl holds a U.S. and Chinese flag as she waits for U.S. President Barack Obama to welcome Chinese President Hu Jintao during an official south lawn arrival ceremony at the White House in Washington January 19, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque/Files

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China hit back on Friday at the U.S. State Department's annual survey of human rights, saying that only the Chinese people could pass judgement on what the Foreign Ministry said were the country's obvious achievements in the area.

Asked about criticism of China in the report, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei condemned it for being prejudiced.

"The United States State Department's annual report on human rights maligns other countries, and the content concerning China ignores the facts and is filled will prejudice, confusing black and white," he told a daily news briefing.

Since the launch of landmark economic reforms more than three decades ago, Hong said: "China's human rights endeavours have made achievements that are plain for all the world to see. The Chinese people themselves have the most right to speak about China's human rights situation".

"In human rights, there is no such thing as the best; there is only doing even better," he added.

Human rights have long been a source of friction between China and the United States, especially since 1989 when the United States and other Western countries imposed sanctions on China after a crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

China rejects criticism of its rights' record, saying providing food, clothing, housing and economic growth are far more relevant for developing countries like it, pointing to its success at lifting millions out of poverty.

Hong said each country could exchange views and lessons on human rights through "dialogue on an equal footing".

"By no means should these issues be used as tools to meddle in the domestic affairs of other countries. We hope that the United States will truly take a long, hard look at itself and put an end to its mistaken ways and thinking."

In what has become China's standard response to the yearly U.S. criticism, the government later issued its annual assessment of the rights situation in the United States, saying U.S. problems meant it had no right to lecture others.

"The United States has turned a blind eye to its own woeful human rights situation and remained silent about it," the government said in the report, issued by the official Xinhua news agency, pointing to issues as diverse as domestic crime and the war in Afghanistan.

"The country is lying to itself when referring to itself as the 'land of the free'," it said.

"CORROSIVE INFLUENCE"

The U.S. State Department said in its lengthy section on China the government had stepped up efforts to silence activists and rights lawyers, with authorities resorting to extra-legal measures including enforced disappearance and house arrest.

Under an "arbitrary arrest" section, the State Department catalogued harassment of blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng, who arrived in New York last weekend after weeks at the centre of a U.S.-China standoff following his dramatic escape from house arrest and flight to the U.S. embassy in Beijing.

Chen, who is preparing to study at the New York University School of Law, has voiced fears his family and supporters will suffer more abuse.

In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, the self-taught lawyer urged the Chinese government to prosecute "lawless" officials who he said harassed and abused him, his family and supporters, saying such prosecutions could help China establish the rule of law.

While not naming Chen, China's top state newspaper accused the United States and other Western powers in two commentaries on Friday of exploiting human rights tension in a bid to subvert Communist Party rule and hobble the country's rise.

In one of the commentaries, researchers from a People's Liberation Army university demanded "high vigilance and precautions against the corrosive influence on our country of Western 'exporting of democracy and human rights'."

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

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