China angered by Britain's report on human rights, cancels talks

BEIJING/LONDON Tue Apr 15, 2014 12:17pm EDT

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) listens to China's Premier Li Keqiang as the two leaders deliver statements following a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing December 2, 2013. REUTERS/Ed Jones/Pool

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L) listens to China's Premier Li Keqiang as the two leaders deliver statements following a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing December 2, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Ed Jones/Pool

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BEIJING/LONDON (Reuters) - China accused Britain on Tuesday of interfering in its domestic affairs after the British government criticized Beijing's human rights record.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Britain's annual human rights made "irresponsible remarks...about the Chinese political system, rudely slandering and criticizing China's human rights situation".

She was speaking a day after China called off talks with Britain on Beijing's human rights record. Chinese and British officials had been due to hold a round of the two-way Human Rights Dialogue in London on Wednesday.

Britain listed China as "a country of concern" in its report last week, saying it had observed increased curbs on freedom of expression, association and assembly in 2013. It also cited reports of repression of ethnic unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang.

The two countries had agreed to resume the regular meetings during a trip to China by British Prime Minister David Cameron in December.

Hua told a daily news briefing that Britain must immediately stop using human rights as a pretext for interfering in China's internal politics and judicial sovereignty.

"Britain's path on this issue is not helpful to dialogue and discussion on the subject of human rights, and not good for the stable development of the health of China-U.K. relations," Hua said.

Cameron's visit in December was aimed at forging closer trade and business links between Britain and the world's second biggest economy, and at drawing a line under a dispute involving Tibet's spiritual leader that had led to a diplomatic freeze.

A spokeswoman from Cameron's office said Britain had registered its disappointment with the Chinese government.

"We believe a Human Rights Dialogue is essential, and are working on agreeing new dates," the spokeswoman said.

(Reporting by Megha Rajagopalan in BEIJING and Andrew Osborn in LONDON, Writing by Sui-Lee Wee, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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