China defended its human rights record in front of the UN Human Rights Council on Monday, rejecting suggestions that it uses torture and jails dissidents, Reuters reported. The discussion was part of the new Universal Periodic Review, under which UN members are expected to undergo an assessment of their human rights record on a four-yearly basis. Backed by various Asian and African nations, the Chinese delegates said allegations that ethnic groups in Tibet and elsewhere are oppressed by Beijing were merely political propaganda designed to undermine the country. A number of government officials declared that there is freedom of speech and a free media in China, that all ethnic minorities enjoy full rights, and that the country lives in peace and harmony. "This was a display of very low tolerance of critical comments," said Sharon Hom, head of Human Rights in China, a US-based monitoring group.