BEIJING -- China sharply rejected yesterday a recent U.S. report on Chinese human rights abuses, charging it was based on distorted rumors and was an "unscrupulous interference" in its domestic affairs.
"The so-called human rights report . . . is in essence an unwarranted criticism of and an unscrupulous interference in the internal affairs of many countries on the pretext of human rights," Foreign Ministry spokesman Li Zhaoxing said at a weekly briefing.
"The human rights report . . . cites false rumors to distort and attack China over its domestic matters, and this is entirely unacceptable."
The U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights worldwide, submitted to Congress last Friday, outlined a wide variety of "serious human rights abuses" in China, including torture, arbitrary arrest, denial of fair trial and restrictions on free speech, religion and travel.
The report concluded that "China's human rights climate in 1990 remained repressive. . . . Observance of human rights fell far short of internationally recognized norms."
While far from a new issue, this chapter of the Sino-American wrangling over human rights comes as authorities appear to be moving toward completing, before the start of the Chinese New Year next Friday, a wave of legal actions involving protesters arrested after the 1989 democracy demonstrations.
In the last month, while the world's attention has been gripped by the war in the Persian Gulf, 29 demonstrators, most of whom have been jailed for 1 1/2 years, have been put on trial in Beijing in proceedings closed to foreigners. About 60 others were released Jan. 26 after showing repentance, officials said.
Sentences resulting from the trials -- from two to seven years -- have been lighter than expected in line with official claims of a lenient posture and, some foreign diplomats suspect, as a ploy to blunt criticism.
However, two intellectuals face the capital charge of sedition in trials that began this week and that may result in much more severe sentences. Two others face similar charges in trials also expected to be concluded soon.
Over the last year, China says, it has released more than 900 protesters jailed after the 1989 demonstrations. But the U.S. rights report indicated that hundreds, if not thousands, probably remain in detention.
Mr. Li, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, refused to cite specific examples of alleged distortions in the U.S. report, contending only, "The Chinese people, as masters of their own country, have enjoyed extensive democratic rights and freedom. These are facts that cannot be changed by distortion or attack."