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China hits back on human rights

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BEIJING, China (Reuters) -- China retaliated on Thursday against a U.S. report critical of its human rights performance, accusing America of turning a blind eye to violations at home while "pretending to be the world's judge of human rights."

A report by the State Council, or cabinet, titled "The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2002," was Beijing's answer to an annual State Department report highly critical of China's human rights record issued earlier this week.

The Chinese report, issued by the official Xinhua news wire, said Washington had given distorted pictures and levied criticism of human rights conditions in China and elsewhere, but failed to address the human rights problems in the United States.

"Therefore, it is necessary to make known to the world the human rights violations in the United States in 2002," it said.

The report said the U.S. rights record had deteriorated in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on Washington and New York.

"Racial discrimination has been on the rise in the United States since the Sept 11 terrorist attacks. Discrimination against Muslims and Arabs is the most serious," it said.

It also said the Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law, had led to torture and forced confessions.

The United States had "frequently committed blunt violations of human rights" of the people of other countries, it said, and pointed to human suffering in the U.S.-led war in Iraq and military action in Afghanistan as examples.

It accused the United States of having a "democracy of the rich" that was not representative of the majority and of excessive violence that "has resulted in ineffective protection of life and security of the person."

The report said poverty, hunger and homelessness were growing problems in the United States.

China argues that fundamental human rights demand that feeding, clothing and housing its 1.3 billion people comes first and foremost and individual rights take a back seat to the welfare of society as a whole.

Its report accused the United States of executing child offenders and the mentally ill. It said discrimination against women was prevalent and poor management of overflowing jails led to lack of protection of prisoners' rights.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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