China has rejected a call from the United States to lift its restrictions on internet usage, saying the US criticism has harmed relations between the countries.
A spokesman for China's foreign ministry on Friday defended his country's policies regarding the internet, denouncing comments on the issue by Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state.
"We firmly oppose such words and deeds, which go against the facts and are harmful to China-US relations," Ma Zhaoxu, a ministry spokesman, said in a statement posted on the foreign ministry website.
"We urge the United States to respect facts and stop using the so-called internet freedom issue to criticise China unreasonably.
"The Chinese internet is open and China is the country witnessing the most active development of the internet."
Cyber attack allegations
The comments follow a call by Clinton on Thursday for China to fully investigate alleged cyber attacks against US firm Google, the world's leading search engine, or risk facing international condemnation.
Her comments came after Google warned last week that it may shut down its operations in China after email accounts belonging to human rights activists were allegedly hacked.
Calling for a "transparent" investigation into the allegations, Clinton said: "Countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century."
Google announced its surprise change of policy in China last week, saying that after uncovering the alleged attacks it would stop filtering its search results as required under Chinese censorship laws.
As a result, the company said, it may have to pull out of China and shut down its operations there.
The announcement marked an abrupt about-turn by Google, which first entered the Chinese market in 2006 saying it would adhere to Chinese internet censorship rules.
On Thursday Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, clarified the company's plans saying that the search giant was still censoring results in China but that would change soon.
The company has said it no longer wants to censor its Chinese Google.cn site and wants to talk with Chinese officials about offering a legal, unfiltered Chinese site.
China has so far given no indication it is open to that idea, warning earlier this week that all companies operating in the country would have to follow Chinese laws.
A foreign ministry spokesman told reporters earlier this week that Google would be no exception.