China has lodged a formal complaint against U.S. television network CNN for what it called a "vicious attack" by one of its commentators who labelled the Chinese as "goons".
In a statement late on Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao condemned the comments by Jack Cafferty on CNN's The Situation Room programme and demanded the network offer an apology.
"Those in the field of journalism should abide by their morals. They don't have the privilege to rail against or slander other people or other governments," Liu said in the statement posted on the ministry's website (www.fmprc.gov.cn).
CNN has already said it did not mean to cause offence with Cafferty's remarks and clarified that the commentator was offering his opinion of the Chinese government, not the country's people, but the Foreign Ministry said that was not good enough.
CNN's motive was to "mislead public opinion" and "deceive the Chinese people", Liu said.
"We once again solemnly urge CNN and Cafferty to retract the vile remarks and make a sincere apology to the Chinese people," he said.
Cafferty had said the United States imported Chinese-made "junk with the lead paint on them and the poisoned pet food", adding: "They're basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years."
The anger at CNN is the latest in a wave of criticism in China of Western news organisations which state media, the government and a chorus of bloggers accuse of running distorted and biased reports of the recent unrest in Tibet.
China has blocked foreign reporters from visiting Tibet, with the exception of one small, guided visit, and security personnel have sealed off ethnic Tibetan areas of its western provinces, where anti-government demonstrations have also been held.
The Committee to Protect Journalists urged China to release or publicly charge ethnic Tibetan television producer Jamyang Kyi, who was arrested on April 1 in the western province of Qinghai and who it said had not been seen since April 7.
"The detention of a prominent television producer at a time when the flow of information in and out of Tibetan regions is so rigidly controlled is very concerning, particularly as the Beijing Olympics approach," the New York-based group's Asia programme coordinator, Bob Dietz, said in a statement.
The Games open in Beijing on Aug. 8.