Reuters International

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Friday asked the United States to respect the fight against what Beijing says are militants in the far western region of Xinjiang, after Washington expressed concern about the lack of transparency in China's anti-terror campaign.

Hundreds have died in recent years in Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people, in unrest blamed by Beijing on Islamist militants and separatists, though rights groups say the violence is more a reaction to repressive Chinese policies.

China says the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is behind the unrest, though many experts have questioned whether ETIM exists as a cohesive militant group.

The U.S. State Department, in its annual report on terrorism around the world, said there was a lack of transparency or information from China about incidents Beijing called terrorism, and said counter-terrorism cooperation was limited.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China was "dissatisfied" with what she said were inaccurate remarks about China, and expressed regret at the "unobjective evaluation" of counter-terrorism cooperation.

"We cannot accept the United States issuing reports like this making thoughtless remarks about counter-terrorism policy in China and other countries," she told a daily news briefing.

China and the United States both agreed to list ETIM as a terrorist group at the United Nations, Hua said.

"Cracking down on ETIM as a representative of East Turkestan terrorist forces is a core concern of China's on the issue of counter-terrorism. We hope the relevant country can earnestly respect this."

Western countries have long been reluctant to share intelligence with China or otherwise cooperate, saying China has provided little evidence to prove ETIM's existence and citing worries about possible human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

The State Department also criticised Chinese restrictions on religious expression in Xinjiang, like banning veils for women.

"Many Chinese government policies may have exacerbated ethnic tension in Xinjiang and could contribute to increased violent extremism," it said.

China strongly denies abusing anybody's rights in Xinjiang.

This week, the government said there was no religious discrimination in Xinjiang and there would be no interference in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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