Responding to U.S. criticism of its human rights record, China returned fire in a blistering rebuttal Monday — a point-by-point dismantling of American society that depicted a nation beset by crime, violent media images, indifference to poverty and arrogant foreign policy.
Despite the harsh tenor of the Chinese report on American human rights, there was little to indicate that it, like its counterpart report issued by the U.S. State Department last week, would affect the increasing warmth of Beijing-Washington relations.
Most of the Beijing report, the latest in a series issued annually in recent years by the government's State Council Information Office, was based on a single cornerstone: that the U.S. government has no business criticizing other nations' human rights records before it cleans its own house.
"Once again the United States, assuming the role of `world judge of human rights,' has distorted human rights conditions in many countries and regions in the world, including China, and accused them of human rights violations, all the while turning a blind eye to its own human rights-related problems," the report said.
Especially notable was the document's scant criticism of the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 attacks — something China is loath to condemn, since it, too, has a vested interest in fighting terrorism, a term it uses to justify crackdowns on domestic dissent.
The 20-page report was released on the English-language service of Xinhua, China's official news agency, thus assuring an audience of foreign reporters. There was no immediate comment from Washington, where it was late Sunday when the report was issued.
"China understands that its own policies do not meet international standards. And it doesn't like to see that in these reports," said Ved Nanda, a University of Denver expert on international human rights.
"China has no other way to hit back at the United States on human rights issues," he said. "It's trying to save face, and I think Washington understands that."
Among the report's many other assertions, which it buttressed with a flurry of statistics and citations of news reports about violent incidents:
_The United States is "wantonly infringing upon human rights of other countries" with military and political actions.
_American mass media are "inundated with violent content," which in turn encourages more violence. "A culture beautifying violence has made young people believe that the gun can `solve' all problems," the report says.
_Racism and discrimination continue unabated.
_Police brutality, torture and forced confession "are common," and death row is full of "misjudged or wronged" inmates. Prisons are overcrowded and inhumane.
_Americans living in poverty are "the forgotten `third world' within this superpower," and the gap between rich and poor is growing.
_Violence against women and sexual abuse of children are common. It cited sexual molestations of children by American clergy, calling that "the greatest scandal in the United States following the Enron case."
The criticism of American response to the Sept. 11 attacks was limited to this, a reflection of China's unease at the historical Western military presence in Asia:
"Before the Sept. 11 incident, the United States had stationed its troops in more than 140 countries. Today, the United States has expanded its so-called security interests to almost every corner of the world."
Despite improving relations during the past 10 months, Beijing and Washington remain deeply divided over human rights. In the years after China's bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the rights issue threatened to affect the two nations' pivotal economic relationship.
China says it has made great strides and insists that much of what the U.S. government criticizes as rights violations is simply efforts to maintain order.
While the government says Chinese are not jailed for their beliefs, prisons and labor camps hold thousands of people detained for following the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, for praying at unofficial churches and for pushing for political reforms, labor rights and independence for Tibet.