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Beijing has hit back at Hillary Clinton, with a state newspaper likening the US presidential contender to “the demagogue Donald Trump”, after she accused Xi Jinping of hypocrisy for hosting a UN event championing women’s rights.

On Sunday the Chinese president, together with UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, hosted a summit in New York to recognise the 20th anniversary of a landmark women’s rights conference in Beijing.

“Xi hosting a meeting on women’s rights at the UN while persecuting feminists? Shameless,” Mrs Clinton tweeted, attaching a link to a New York Times story about China’s arrest this year of five feminist dissidents protesting against sexual harassment.

The Chinese feminists were arrested and charged earlier this year with “creating a disturbance” for planning public protests aimed at drawing attention to the issue ahead of International Women’s Day in March.

A Monday editorial in the Global Times, a nationalistic newspaper published by Communist party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, accused Mrs Clinton of resorting to “ignominious shenanigans” in her White House run. The spat signals the resumption of US-China sniping following a week of diplomatic good feeling during the Chinese president’s visit to the US.

All five were freed by late April but they still face official harassment and threats. In July they sent an open letter to the UN saying that since their release they had “been under investigation and strict surveillance as criminal suspects”.

“Our travel and social activities have been restricted, and we have not been able to resume our NGO work,” they said. “Organisations that supported us have been raided.”

Without referring to the activists and their arrests, the Global Times editorial laid into Mrs Clinton’s criticism, calling it “political chicanery”.

“It is a pity that even the former first lady has also thrown away her decency and reputation only to gain a leg up in the election,” it said.

The newspaper also used the affair to criticise the US democratic system.

“The US presidential election has resulted in an increasing number of ill consequences when democracy spins out of control,” it said. “Policies, guidelines and public interests will have to make room for political chicanery that can incite the voters, by whose support the candidates can succeed to the throne. China-bashing has become an effective way for them to win more votes.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.

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