China has blasted the United States' human rights record, citing what it called US failures against Covid-19 that cost "hundreds of thousands of lives," as well as racial discrimination, police brutality, and an "evil past of genocide".
Jiang Duan, a delegate at the Chinese mission in Geneva, voiced the criticism at the end of an examination of the US rights record at the Human Rights Council, part of a regular review faced by all countries at the United Nations' top human rights body.
The comments testified to growing outspokenness of Chinese diplomats, and the swelling rivalry between the world's top two economic powers. The US has repeatedly criticised China's rights record on issues like the rights of protesters in Hong Kong and the detention of Muslim Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region.
In a brief but sharp statement, Jiang criticised US military interventions abroad that had resulted in "tremendous deaths of civilians" and faulted US forces for having "slaughtered innocent civilians and conducted torture" in other countries.
"The US neither apologises for its evil past of genocide nor provides reparation to the victims," Jiang said, without elaborating.
"The US has failed to take effective measures to control the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives."
Lisa Peterson, the US acting assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labour, said the US was "very proud" that it had accepted more than four-fifths of 347 recommendations put up by other countries on ways the US could improve its rights record.
She outlined US support for some recommendations and pointed to US efforts on issues such as the rights of migrants and indigenous peoples, climate change, and improving Americans' access to health care during the pandemic.
Peterson said "no issue is more central to the goals and policies" of the Biden administration than "addressing systematic racism — forthrightly, honestly and powerfully — and the legacy of discrimination in our country."
"We're not perfect — far from it — but we are going to keep striving to live up to our highest ideals and principles," she said, shortly before Jiang and other diplomats spoke.
The Biden administration has resumed US participation at the Geneva-based council after a two-and-a-half year absence under former President Donald Trump. Washington is now seeking a seat on the 47-member council for a three-year term starting in 2022.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the completion of the review showed a US "commitment to openness, transparency and self-reflection, and a return to leadership with confidence, respect and humility."
Jiang's verbal attack follows the US sanction of an additional 24 Chinese and Hong Kong officials over Beijing's ongoing crackdown on political freedoms in the semi-autonomous city.
The step reflects Washington's "deep concern" about the erosion of Hong Kong's autonomy following changes to its election system endorsed by China's ceremonial legislature last week, Blinken said.
The planned changes to Hong Kong's electoral law give a pro-Beijing committee power to appoint more of Hong Kong's lawmakers. The move will reduce the proportion of those directly elected and ensures that only those determined to be truly loyal to Beijing are allowed to run for office — effectively shutting opposition figures out of the political process.
New Zealand and Australia have been among the Western nations to condemn the planned changes to Hong Kong's electoral system.