China on Friday rejected criticism by Hillary Clinton over Internet censorship and warned the US not to allow the issue to damage bilateral relations.

We firmly oppose such talk, which runs counter to the facts and damages China-US relations, said Ma Zhaoxu, foreign ministry spokesman, on Friday.

The comments come after the U.S. secretary of state called for unrestricted Internet access and international condemnation of countries engaged in cyber-attacks yesterday.

Tension between the two countries rose after Google claimed hackers based in China attempted to compromise Gmail accounts of a number of human rights activists last week.

A new information curtain is descending across much of the world, Clinton in Washington Thursday. Countries or individuals that engage in cyber-attacks should face consequence.

China's Ma sternly rebuked Clinton's speech, calling for the US to respect the facts and stop using the issue of so-called Internet freedom to unreasonably criticize China.

Chinese law forbids hacking attacks and violations of citizens' privacy, the statement said, apparently referring to the issues raised by Google.

China's constitution protects the right of citizens to free speech and promoting development of the Internet has been our consistent policy, the statement said. China has its own national condition and cultural traditions.

The rhetoric was stern, but mild compared to editorial pieces across the country.

US information hegemony was criticized in the state-run newspaper China Daily on Friday in an article about how the Internet is regulated.

The nationalist Global Times was even more direct in its criticism.

China's real stake in the 'free flow of information' is evident in its refusal to be victimized by information imperialism, it said.