China has told Washington not to interfere in its affairs after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for the release of dozens of activists rounded up in a growing crackdown on dissent.
Beijing rejected an annual human rights survey by the State Department saying China had stepped up efforts to rein in activists, the media and free Internet access and pursued "severe repression" in the Tibet and Xinjiang regions.
"The US should stop interfering in other countries' internal affairs with human rights reports," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement issued late Saturday.
Clinton said on Friday that Beijing's record on human rights was worsening.
"We remain deeply concerned about reports that since February, dozens of people including public-interest lawyers, writers, artists, intellectuals and activists have been arbitrarily detained and arrested."
She highlighted the case of Ai Weiwei, an outspoken artist who helped design the Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium for the 2008 Beijing Games. He was detained on April 3 for unspecified "economic crimes."
In an unusual public criticism, a UN human rights panel on Friday also voiced concern at China's treatment of activists and lawyers, saying that so-called enforced disappearances were a crime under international law.
China has warned foreign nations not to interfere over Ai's case. China often bristles at the annual State Department report, hitting back that the United States also has concerns it needs to address.
Hong said Washington should reflect on itself before acting as a "preacher of human rights".
In unusually blunt public comments, US Ambassador Jon Huntsman - who leaves his post this month - last week saluted Ai, jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo and others who "challenge the Chinese government to serve the public in all cases and at all times".
"The United States will never stop supporting human rights because we believe in the fundamental struggle for human dignity and justice wherever it may occur," he said. "We do so not because we oppose China but, on the contrary, because we value our relationship."