The new administration of President George W. Bush early this morning (Hong Kong time) launched its first significant criticism of China's human rights record, warning of a worsening situation on the mainland. On the strength of the report, Michael Parmly, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, confirmed the US would sponsor a censure motion against Beijing at next month's annual UN human rights meeting in Geneva. An expanded section on China in the State Department's annual report on human rights noted intensified crackdowns against political dissent, the Falun Gong movement and in Tibet. In general, freedom of religious expression had 'deteriorated markedly'. 'The Government's poor human rights record worsened and it continued to commit numerous serious abuses,' the report said. 'The constitution and laws provide for fundamental human rights; however, these protections often are ignored in practice. Abuses included instances of extrajudicial killings, the use of torture, forced confessions, arbitrary arrest and detention, the mistreatment of prisoners, lengthy incommunicado detention and denial of due process.' It cited reports that more than 100 Falun Gong followers may have died in police custody, the victims of torture and beatings. It estimated that several thousand people are in detention for political and religious reasons that violate international human rights covenants. The report also detailed efforts to keep the media and Internet under tight control and violence being used to suppress protests. Despite the at-times bleak portrayal, the report appeared geared to striking a balance with general improvements under China's economic reforms. Despite government abuses 'many Chinese had more individual choice, greater access to information and expanded economic opportunity', it noted prominently. The report also said the Government was now removed from the daily lives of many ordinary people. But it cited official efforts to make the judiciary more accountable and independent and the police more professional. 'Senior officials openly acknowledged abuses such as using torture to extort confessions and admitted that extorting favours from suspects and nepotism remained serious problems,' it said. The efforts at balance reflect rewriting efforts by the new Bush team. Much of the report was completed in draft before the presidential election process ended in December. China has yet to comment formally on the State Department report.