Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed China's mass detention of Muslims but took a lighter hand on North Korea as the State Department released its annual human rights report Wednesday.
Iran also came in for harsh criticism while rival Saudi Arabia, cited for many identical domestic rights abuses as well as the murder of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, was given easier treatment.
And in a small semantic change, the report appeared to shift the US view of Israel's hold on the Golan Heights seized from Syria in 1967, calling it "Israeli-controlled" instead of "Israeli-occupied" as before.
Introducing the annual report, a fact-based country-by-country review, Pompeo excoriated Beijing for its allegedly deteriorating rights situation.
China is "in a league of its own when it comes to human rights violations," Pompeo said.
He said Beijing intensified its campaign of repression against Muslims in the far western province of Xinjiang "to record levels" during 2018, reported AFP.
The State Department also singled out Iran for a human rights record that "remained extremely poor and worsened in several key areas," noting 20 deaths and thousands of arrests in protests during 2018.
Citing poor media freedoms, racism and "ideological prejudice", China yesterday hit back in unusually strong terms after the US State Department slammed China's rights record, reported Reuters. Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the US report was as usual filled with "ideological prejudice" and groundless accusations, and that China had lodged a complaint with Washington about it.