BEIJING -- China warned the United States on Tuesday not to overstep bounds in human rights talks this week that the State Department says will focus on an ongoing dissident crackdown that appears to be Beijing's most severe in years.
China hopes the meeting will help deepen mutual understanding but doesn't want human rights used as a pretext to meddle in domestic affairs, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters at a briefing.
"We oppose any country that uses human rights to interfere in China's internal affairs," said Hong.
The two-day U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue starts Wednesday in Beijing. The State Department said last week the talks would focus on the dissident crackdown, rule of law, freedom of religion and expression, and labor and minority rights.
China wants to talk about new human rights developments in both countries, as well as China-U.S. cooperation on human rights at the United Nations.
Beijing says Washington is hypocritical to lecture others on rights when it has so many problems of its own, such as high crime, homelessness, racial discrimination, and killings of civilians and other abuses by U.S. forces overseas.
The lead participants are Michael Posner, assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor, and Chen Xu, director-general of the department of international organizations and conferences of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
China's annual assessment of America's human rights situation earlier this month accused the U.S. of advocating Internet freedom to boost its influence over other countries, while at the same time pursuing legal challenges to the WikiLeaks secret-spilling website.
The report advised the U.S. government to improve its human rights conditions and stop interfering in other countries' internal affairs.
U.S. officials have voiced concern about the growing number of Chinese government critics detained or put under house arrest in recent months. The crackdown on writers, lawyers, artists, and other intellectuals follows anti-government protests in the Middle East and North Africa and appears to have been triggered by concern that similar unrest could erupt here.
Many Chinese are frustrated over some of the same issues that sent Egyptian protestors into the streets, including corruption and inflation. Chinese ruling Communist Party seized power in a 1949 revolution and brooks no challenges to its authority.
Chinese artist and rights activist Ai Weiwei is perhaps the best known figure to be targeted so far. Though the Foreign Ministry says he is under investigation for economic crimes, his family says officials have refused to tell them where he is or confirm he is being investigated.
Ai's sister says he is being punished for being critical of the communist leadership and speaking out about social problems such as the deaths of students when shoddily built schools collapsed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton earlier this month called for Ai's release and criticized China for what she said was a deteriorating human rights situation this year.