Beijing and Washington trade accusations of human rights abuses
American report points to central government's mistreatment of activists, while Beijing denounces drone strikes and gun violence
China and the United States have accused each other of human rights abuses in an annual tit-for-tat exchange of criticism.
In the China section of its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013, the US said China remained "an authoritarian state" despite the abolition of the notorious system of re-education through labour and a change to the one-child policy.
"Repression and coercion, particularly against organisations and individuals involved in civil and political rights advocacy and public interest issues, ethnic minorities, and law firms that took on sensitive cases, were routine," the report said.
Officials increasingly harassed and intimidated families and associates of rights defenders, it said. Individuals and groups regarded as politically sensitive still faced restrictions on their freedom to assemble, practise religion and travel, the report said.
Authorities also used extra-legal measures such as enforced disappearance and strict house arrest, not just on suspects but also their family members, to prevent public expression of independent opinions, it said. Officials also used new methods to censor the internet and targeted popular bloggers, it said.
The report listed other abuses including executions without due process, arbitrary detention, torture and coerced confessions, and detention and harassment of lawyers, writers and dissidents who tried to express views legally .
It noted "severe official repression" of the freedoms of speech, religion, association and assembly in Xinjiang and Tibet.
The report said the government's respect for human rights in Tibet "remained poor" last year and said it engaged in the "severe repression of Tibet's unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage".
It also accused the government of vilifying Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama and noted at least 26 reported self-immolations by Tibetan laypersons, monks, and nuns last year.
In response, China's State Council Information Office yesterday issued its own report on the US' handling of human rights, accusing Washington of "posing as the world judge of human rights" but "carefully concealing and avoiding mentioning its own human rights problems," Xinhua said.
The report denounced US drone strikes overseas that caused "heavy civilian casualties" and accused the National Security Agency of spying at home and abroad.
It also condemned "rampant gun violence" in the US and said it failed to ratify or participate in several UN conventions on human rights, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Additional reporting by Teddy Ng