US official: China's rights record getting worse

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Human rights conditions in China are worsening, a senior US official said Friday, accusing Beijing of harassing activists' family members and repressing ethnic and religious minorities.

"We continue to see a deterioration in the overall human rights situation in China," said Uzra Zeya, acting assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour.

Zeya was briefing reporters after she led Washington's delegation to a US-China Human Rights Dialogue meeting held earlier this week in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming.

She mentioned Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo and human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng as examples of activists whose families have been victimised.

"This is a worrisome trend and one which we have raised at senior levels with the Chinese government," she said.

Zeya also cited China's policies towards ethnic and religious minorities such as Buddhist Tibetans and Muslim Uighurs, "particularly with respect to repressive measures related to religious practice".

China is sensitive to criticism of its human rights record and counters that the US has plenty of problems of its own.

In a rejoinder to a US rights report condemning China, Beijing in April accused Washington of human rights violations through its military operations abroad and failing to protect its own citizens from gun violence.

It said in a report of its own that Washington had "turned a blind eye to its own woeful human rights situation", despite styling itself as "the world judge of human rights".

China -- which officially includes rising living standards in its definition of human rights -- released the document in response to a US report published two days earlier.

"The Chinese side did raise some concerns on the human rights situation in the US" at the Kunming meeting, Zeya said, without giving details.

"I think we were very open to responding and ultimately I'd like to think that we're an open book when it comes to human rights," she added.

China's foreign ministry said in a press release that the talks had been "frank, in-depth, comprehensive and constructive", state media reported.

The Xinhua news agency said the Chinese delegation had urged "the US side to respect China's judicial sovereignty and stop bothering China on some isolated cases".