BEIJING (Reuters) - A U.S. congressional commission’s criticism of China’s human rights record did not “accord with the facts”, the Chinese government said on Friday, the latest friction over a long-running thorn in relations.
The U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China said on Thursday that it saw in China “a disturbing deterioration in human rights and rule of law conditions that pose a direct challenge to U.S. national interests and U.S.-China relations”.
The report comes weeks after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Washington, during which U.S. President Barack Obama laid out concern over human rights.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing that U.S. officials and the American public must be more objective.
“This report has nothing new, embraces a persistent bias in order to make irresponsible remarks about China’s domestic affairs, and makes criticisms that don’t accord with the facts,” Hua said.
“China’s 1.3 billion people have the greatest authority to pass judgment,” she said.
The U.S. commission said China was moving further away from a rule of law system and had increased pressure on civil society. It also criticized the state of religious freedom and Beijing’s treatment of ethnic minorities.
“President Xi has presided over an extraordinary assault on the rule of law and civil society”, U.S. Representative Chris Smith, the commission’s chairman, said in an emailed statement. Florida senator and Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio co-chairs the committee.
In a statement later on Friday, Smith took issue with China’s criticism of the commission report and invited Beijing’s ambassador to the United States to testify before the human rights panel.
The report “gets the facts correct, we stand by the conclusion that this year saw a ‘disturbing deterioration’ of human rights,” Smith said.
Activists say that under Xi, China is conducting its most intense crackdown on human rights in two decades.
Nearly 1,000 rights activists were detained last year – almost as many as in the previous two years combined, according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a coalition of Chinese and international activist groups.
China has long argued that it is unfairly singled out for criticism of its rights record and says other governments should examine their own records before making accusations.
Reporting by Adam Rose; Additional reporting by Eric Beech in Washington; Writing by Michael Martina; Editing by Robert Birsel and Lisa Lambert