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China lashes out at U.S. on human rights

BEIJING—China issued a tit-for-tat report card Thursday on human rights in the United States that lambasted the Pentagon for "wanton slaughters" abroad, belittled American elections as awash in special-interest cash and accused U.S. courts of deep-seated racial bias.

The Chinese government report, which portrayed the United States as gun-crazed and unfair to minorities, came three days after the State Department released its annual report on human rights abuses in countries around the world, including China.

It marked the sixth straight year that China has countered the American report with one of its own, but this year's was particularly noteworthy because it condemned the United States for abuses by American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"In 2004, the atrocity of U.S. troops abusing Iraqi POWs exposed the dark side of the human rights performance of the United States," the report said.

Instead of censuring other nations, the report urged the United States to "reflect on its erroneous behavior" and deal with "tons of problems in its own human rights."

In a report issued Monday, the State Department cited "numerous and serious abuses" in China against petitioners, writers and critics of one-party rule. It said inmates often died in custody, and that more than 250,000 people languished in labor camps without trials. It cited "credible reports" of widespread incarceration of regime critics in high-security psychiatric hospitals.

"We have a strong relationship with China, and the mark of a good relationship is that you sometimes disagree," State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said. He declined to comment further on the Chinese report, but said the State Department stood by its own report.

"We think it's well-researched, well-documented and well-substantiated," he said.

China's report listed many of what it said were injustices in the United States for women, minorities, the poor and victims of violent crime. Many of the problems were cited from American newspaper reports. The sources of some of the statistics used in the report weren't given.

"The United States claims to be `a paragon of democracy,' but American democracy is manipulated by the rich and malpractices are common," the report said. "Elections in the United States are in fact a contest of money." It described the 2004 presidential election as riddled with problems, ballot-counting errors and confusion.

"In Florida, the cases of black people being removed from voter registration list or their votes being denied were 10 times higher than people of other races," it said.

"Most prisons in the United States are overcrowded," even though construction of jails is a growth industry, the report added. "California has seen only one college but 21 new prisons built since 1984."

"Poverty, hunger and homelessness have haunted the world's richest country," and racial discrimination permeates society, especially in the court system, the report charged. Nearly 3 out of 10 African-Americans have been in prison at least once, it said.

"Blacks receive, on average, a longer felony sentence than whites. A black person's average jail sentence is six months longer than a white's for the same crime," it said.

Children aren't safe at U.S. schools, the report charged. It said 4.5 million students were molested each year at school.

The report was harshest on the conduct of American soldiers overseas and the way in which the Bush administration conducts its worldwide war on terrorism.

"To avoid international scrutiny, the United States keeps under wraps half of its 20-odd detention centers worldwide which are holding terrorist suspects," it said.

China cited a report that said the American-led invasion of Iraq might have led to 100,000 civilian deaths in the country, "with most victims being women and children."

Such a high death toll should come as little surprise, the Chinese report said.

"The United States frequently commits wanton slaughters during external invasions and military attacks."

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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