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China scorns U.S. rights record in tit-for-tat exchange

The national flags of France (R) and China are seen in front of Beijing's Tiananmen Gate, October 21, 2008. REUTERS/Jason Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) - China maintained its scornful response to human rights criticism from the United States, throwing back assertions that Washington was culpable for racism, crowded prisons and torture.

The U.S. State Department sharply criticised China on Wednesday in its annual report on human rights across the world, saying its record “remained poor and worsened in some areas” in 2008.

In the now well-scripted tit-for-tat exchange over the issue, Beijing dismissed the criticisms as “meddling,” but also late Thursday issued its tenth annual assessment of human rights in the United States.

That record was not good, said the report issued by the State Council Information Office, the government arm in charge of news and propaganda.

“The U.S. practice of throwing stones at others while living in a glass house is a testimony to the double standards and hypocrisy of the United States in dealing with its human rights issues,” said the Chinese report.

The U.S. State Department report said detention and harassment of dissidents, petitioners, human rights defenders and defense lawyers rose with high-profile events such as the Beijing Olympic Games in August.

Citing details from U.S. newspapers and international rights groups that Beijing often dismisses as biased, the Chinese report described crowded prisons, racial inequality, poverty and gun violence that it said blighted the U.S. record.

In past decades, China’s ruling Communist Party outright dismissed human rights as an alien and subversive idea. But now it is trying to persuade its own citizens and the world that Beijing has successfully advanced rights, especially through economic growth.

Washington should “face its own human rights problems with courage and stop applying double standards to human rights issues,” said the Chinese report.

Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Ken Wills