BEIJING (Reuters) - China condemned on Friday U.S. criticism of Beijing's controls on the Internet, saying that Washington's push against online censorship could harm relations between the two big powers.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech against Internet censorship on Thursday raised contention with Beijing over cyber policy, which flared after Google Inc last week warned it could pull out of China over hacking and restrictions.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said the U.S. criticisms could hurt ties between the two nations -- the world's biggest and third biggest economies.
"The U.S. has criticized China's policies to administer the Internet and insinuated that China restricts Internet freedom," said Ma, in a statement put on the Foreign Ministry website. (www.mfa.gov.cn) "This runs contrary to the facts and is harmful to China-U.S. relations."
"We urge the United States to respect the facts and cease using so-called Internet freedom to make groundless accusations against China," Ma said without mentioning Clinton by name.
But the spokesman also indicated that his government did not want to see the dispute overwhelm cooperation with the Obama administration, which has sought Beijing's backing on economic policy and diplomatic standoffs, such as Iran and North Korea.
Ma said each side should "appropriately handle rifts and sensitive issues, protecting the healthy and stable development of China-U.S. relations."
Reporting by Chris Buckley and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Benjamin Kang Lim and Sanjeev Miglani