China’s embassy in the United States on Tuesday expressed its “firm opposition” to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s criticism of Beijing’s human rights record the previous day while issuing a statement on the 1984 protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

Pompeo on Monday said that the United States had hoped that China would become more open and tolerant after its induction into the international system. But the United States’ hopes had “been dashed” for human rights progress in China, he claimed in a statement issued ahead of the 30th anniversary of the protests.

Beijing’s communist rulers sent tanks and soldiers into Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, in an attempt to crush a student-led movement that had been escalating for several weeks and featured a Goddess of Democracy statue, resembling the Statue of Liberty. Over a thousand people were reportedly killed in the mass protests, according to AFP. But there is no clarity on the number of people dead.

Pompeo’s comments were made “out of prejudice and arrogance”, China said.“Under the pretext of human rights, the statement grossly intervenes in China’s internal affairs, attacks its system, and smears its domestic and foreign policies,” it said. “This is an affront to the Chinese people and a serious violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations.” China also claimed that the human rights of the country are in the “best period ever”.

On Monday, Pompeo had said China’s one-party state “tolerates no dissent and abuses human rights” whenever it serves its interests. “Today, Chinese citizens have been subjected to a new wave of abuses, especially in Xinjiang, where the Communist Party leadership is methodically attempting to strangle Uighur culture and stamp out the Islamic faith, including through the detention of more than one million members of Muslim minority groups,” Pompeo said.

The north-western Xinjiang region is home to more than 10 million members of the Uyghur Muslim minority group. Several reports have suggested that the Uyghur community is being discriminated against and about millions of people have been forced into “political camps for indoctrination” in the region. Beijing has claimed that the reports of torture were false.

Pompeo urged the Chinese government to make a “full, public accounting” of those killed or missing during the 1989 protests. “Such a step would begin to demonstrate the Communist Party’s willingness to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms,” it said. “We call on China to release all those held for seeking to exercise these rights and freedoms, halt the use of arbitrary detention, and reverse counterproductive policies that conflate terrorism with religious and political expression.”

China, however, cautioned the United States against attempting “to patronise and bully the Chinese people” and said that “they will only end up in the ash heap of history”.

This comes in the backdrop of an escalating trade war between the two countries, which have consistently ramped up ways to impose trade sanctions against each other. Apart from increasing tariffs on Chinese products, United States President Donald Trump on May 15 issued an executive order banning American telecom companies from using foreign-made equipment that are considered a threat to national security. The Chinese telecom giant was directly affected due to this order.

On Sunday, China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe said that a war with the United States would be disastrous for both the countries as well as the world.