China is rejecting criticism of its human rights record in the State
Department's latest annual report on human rights around the world. Meanwhile,
China says people in Tibet - one area highlighted in the report - are happily
celebrating their new year.
China responded quickly to U.S. State Department criticism of it human rights record.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told reporters Thursday China is ready to discuss human rights with any country, but only on the basis of equality and mutual respect.
Ma says the Chinese government urges the American side to reflect on its own human rights problems, stop acting as a human-rights guardian and stop using human rights as an excuse to interfere in other countries' internal affairs.
Earlier, China's official Xinhua news agency said the report "willfully ignored and distorted basic facts, groundlessly assailed China's human rights conditions" and made "random and irresponsible remarks on China's ethnic, religious and legal systems."
The United States and China have different views on human rights and the issue is a regular point of contention between the two countries.
When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Beijing, less than one week ago, she emphasized Sino-American cooperation on combating the financial crisis, mitigating climate change and working on a host of regional and international security issue.
She angered human-rights groups, who pointed to comments she made on the trip as an indication that she was downplaying the importance of human rights in her discussions with the Chinese.
The State Department report, issued Wednesday, says the Chinese government's human-rights record remained poor and worsened, in some areas last year. It especially pointed to "severe cultural and religious repression" of ethnic minorities in Tibet and in Muslim areas in western China.
Tibetans also are marking their New Year, Losar, which fell on Wednesday.
Chinese spokesman Ma said the situation in Tibet is stable and that people in places where the holiday is traditionally celebrated are celebrating it.
Ma says everyone can see on television that Tibetan people are, in his words, "jubilant and radiant with joy in celebrating their festival."
He also wished Tibetans well for their new year and said "tashi delek," which means auspicious in Tibetan.
Tibet has been largely off limits to foreign journalists following a violent anti-Chinese riot in Tibet's capital Lhasa, last March. Recent reports say the Chinese government also has quietly barred foreign tourists from entering Tibet before next month's 50th anniversary of a rebellion against Chinese rule there.
In response to questions about why foreigners recently have not been able to travel to Tibet, the spokesman said nobody has been asked by the Chinese government to keep people away. The Chinese government says foreigners can apply, as usual, for permits to travel to Tibet, but it has not said when they would be processed.