BEIJING (Reuters) - Citing improved rural library services and indoor cinemas along with a deluge of other information, China praised its human rights record in a lengthy report card on Monday, its latest bid to deflect Western criticism.
While senior leaders periodically promise China's citizens democracy and human rights, the last two years under President Xi Jinping's administration have been marked by a sweeping crackdown on dissidents and activists.
China has long rejected criticism of its rights' record, saying providing food, clothing, housing and economic growth are far more relevant for developing countries, pointing to its success at lifting millions out of poverty.
State news agency Xinhua said the white paper, issued by the State Council Information Office without prior warning, upheld "China's unique pattern of protecting human rights".
The paper said China showed progress by "respecting freedom of speech, guaranteeing freedom of religion to ethnic minorities and giving its citizens a right to an impartial trial".
International rights groups have rejected these assertions. In recent years, the government has detained dozens of Chinese for dissent and Tibetans and Uighurs have complained of rights abuses.
"The tremendous achievements China has made in its human rights endeavors fully demonstrate that it is taking the correct path of human rights development that suits its national conditions," the paper said.
The highly detailed paper, covering everything from incomes for rural residents to miscarriages of justice, is China's 12th report on human rights since the government began releasing such reports in 1991.
Under the section "promoting basic cultural rights", the government said it "carried out a rural film program, projecting at least one film per month in every administrative village".
"Outdoor mobile film projection is now giving way to projection at permanent indoor venues, and the number of films to be ordered for purchase exceeds 3,000," the paper said, adding that it also had a rural library project that covers all administrative villages.
The report noted that "ethnic-minority areas have improved their cultural public service system", pointing to 104 radio stations and television stations in ethnic autonomous areas.
(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Ben Blanchard)