US Human Rights
US Human Rights

The United States has labeled China and Russia "forces of instability" because of their human rights records, along with North Korea and Iran.

In its annual global human rights report released Friday, the State Department singled out those four countries for violating basic human rights, including freedom of expression and the protection of religious and ethnic minorities.


WATCH: US: North Korea, China, Russia and Iran Leading Human Rights Violators

Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan said in an introduction to the report that the four countries "violate the human rights of those within their borders on a daily basis."

Sullivan said states that restrict freedom of expression and allow violence against members of religious, ethnic and other minority groups are "morally reprehensible and undermine our interests."

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens during a
Russian President Vladimir Putin listens during a meeting in Moscow, Russia, April 13, 2018.

The report says Russia allows a "climate of impunity" for human rights abuses, doing little to punish those who carry out such crimes. It also describes Russia's government as an "authoritarian political system dominated by President Vladimir Putin."

On China, the report says the government carries out arbitrary detentions, executions and forced disappearances. It also says the government puts "significant restrictions'' on freedoms of speech, religion and movement.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets members of t
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, meets members of the high-level delegation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which visited South Korea to attend the opening ceremony of the 23rd Winter Olympics.

The report also condemns the violence against Burma's Rohingya minority.

Sullivan told reporters that the United States was working with its partners to address the crisis in Burma, in which hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled the country after a government crackdown on Rohingya militants. The United Nations accuses Burma of conducting coordinated attacks against the population, likening the action to "ethnic cleaning."

"Those responsible for the violations, abuses and attacks must be held accountable," Sullivan said.

Sullivan also spoke about Syria, saying the "entire world is aware of the horrendous human rights abuses in Syria, including barrel bombing of civilians, attacks on hospitals, and widespread reports of rape and abuse by Syrian government personnel."

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, right, meets Tu
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, right, meets Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Aleppo, Feb. 6, 2011.

Human rights groups were quick to criticize Friday's report, noting that it had been stripped of its reporting on reproductive rights. This is the first year the report does not contain a section on reproductive rights since 2012, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added the topic. 

Rights group Amnesty International said "reproductive rights are human rights, and omitting the issue signals the Trump administration's latest retreat from global leadership on human rights."

The group also criticized the report for not being critical enough of the governments of U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

VOA's Cindy Saine contributed to this report.