By Chris Buckley
(Reuters) - The United States is beset by violence, racism and torture and has no authority to condemn other governments' human rights problems, China said on Sunday, countering U.S. criticism of Beijing's crackdown.
The row between Beijing and Washington over human rights has intensified since China's ruling Communist Party extended its clampdown on dissidents and rights activists, a move which has sparked an outcry from Washington and other Western governments.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is the most prominent of the activists to be detained by police or held in secretive custody in the latest crackdown.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday she was "deeply concerned" about it, and cited "negative trends" including Ai's detention.
A U.S. State Department report on global human rights released on Friday said Beijing had stepped up restrictions on lawyers, activists, bloggers and journalists, and tightened controls on civil society.
It has also increased its efforts to control the press, Internet and Internet access, the report said.
But China has shown no sign of bowing to foreign pressure.
Its Foreign Ministry on Saturday dismissed the U.S. report as meddling, and its own annual report about U.S. human rights stressed Beijing's dismissive view.
"Stop the domineering behavior of exploiting human rights to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries," it said, according to excerpts published by the official Xinhua news agency.
"The United States ignores its own severe human rights problems, ardently promoting its so-called 'human rights diplomacy', treating human rights as a political tool to vilify other countries and to advance its own strategic interests," said a passage from the Chinese report
Produced by the State Council Information Office, the government's public relations arm, the report dwelled on what it said were severe deprivations and threats facing many Americans, as well as Washington's invasion of Iraq.
It also cited the United States' refusal to ratify a number of international human rights pacts, and listed poverty, hunger and homelessness as stains on the country's rights record.
"The United States is the world's worst country for violent crimes," said the report. "Citizens' lives, property and personal safety do not receive the protection they should."
"Racial discrimination is deeply rooted in the United States, permeating every aspect of social life," it said.
Criticism of China's human rights problems do not come just from foreign governments and groups.
Chinese rights lawyers and advocates have also been dismayed by a recent burst of arrests, detentions and heavy sentences against dissidents and activists.
On Sunday, hundreds of Chinese police moved to prevent a planned outdoor service by a church in Beijing that had been evicted from its former premises.