China criticizes US for questioning deadly clash that left 21 dead

China chided the U.S. on Thursday for questioning a deadly clash on the Chinese Central Asian frontier that Beijing said was terrorism but that Washington said should be investigated.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Washington was "confusing right and wrong" when it ought to be more sympathetic since both China and the U.S. are victims of terrorism.

A violent clash between authorities and assailants the Chinese government described as terrorists left 21 people dead Tuesday in the Xinjiang region. The region has seen decades of sporadic violence by indigenous Muslim Uighurs who are chafing under Beijing's rule that they see as marginalizing them and favoring China's Han Chinese majority.

In the wake of Tuesday's violence, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell called for a thorough and transparent investigation and expressed concern over discrimination against Uighurs and the practice of Islam.

Hua said the U.S. was making absurd accusations against Chinese policies that ensure "the rights, including the freedom of religion, of people from all ethnic groups."

"We are firmly opposed to the U.S. in inverting black and white and confusing right and wrong. They are not only not condemning the violent terrorist incidents, but are making absurd accusations against China's ethnic policy," Hua said at a daily media briefing.

Tuesday's clash in a county outside the oasis city of Kashgar was one of the deadliest in many months. The Xinjiang government said it occurred after local authorities discovered a group of suspicious men in a house armed with knives.

In the government's account, the assailants — whose ethnicity was not identified — attacked the local authorities, set them on fire and then battled with police reinforcements called to the scene. Uighur activists based outside China have disputed the account, saying the clash erupted after police shot a Uighur during searches of homes.