China has pre-emptively hit back at the United States for speaking "irresponsibly" ahead of an expected Trump administration move to name China among the world's worst human trafficking offenders.
Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Tuesday that China strongly opposes the U.S. using its domestic laws to attack another country's record, and maintained that the results of China's anti-human trafficking efforts are "obvious for everyone to see."
The U.S. State Department was expected to unveil later Tuesday a 2017 human trafficking report that downgrades China to the lowest "Tier 3" category, which includes North Korea, Zimbabwe and Syria. The report is the first major U.S. reprimand of China's human rights record under the Trump administration, which has generally played down the promotion of rights in its foreign policy, including with China.
Tier 3 countries can be penalized with sanctions or barred from participating in U.S. cultural exchange programs, although the U.S. president has the authority to waive sanctions.
It wasn't immediately clear what led the administration to downgrade China, but previous editions of the annual human trafficking report have cited China as a "source, destination and transit country" for forced labor and sex trafficking.
"As we have said repeatedly, no country has the right to speak irresponsibly on China's domestic affairs," Lu said at a daily briefing in Beijing.
"China's government's commitment to fighting human trafficking has been resolute and our results have been obvious for everyone to see," he said, adding that China is willing to work with other countries "on the basis of mutual respect" to combat global human trafficking.
Separately Tuesday, Lu warned foreign countries against "interfering with China's internal affairs" after the U.S. Embassy in Beijing called for the release of Liu Xiaobo, a democracy activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer after eight years in prison.
Since his inauguration, President Donald Trump has generally taken a conciliatory tone toward Beijing on a range of issues including trade and currency while courting President Xi Jinping's cooperation in exerting pressure against North Korea's nuclear program. But the president tweeted this week that Xi and China's efforts to help with North Korea have "not worked out."