BEIJING  - China hit back Thursday at criticism by US President George W Bush on religion and human rights, saying it opposed any interference in its internal affairs. "We firmly oppose any words and deeds that use human rights and religion to interfere in other countries' internal affairs," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement on the ministry's website. The statement was in response to a speech by Bush earlier in the day in Bangkok in which he repeatedly highlighted Washington's "deep concerns over religious freedom and human rights" in China. Bush was due to arrive soon in Beijing to attend Friday's opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. "The Chinese people enjoy religious freedom according to law. That's a basic fact evident to all," Qin said. "With regards to differences between China and the United States on rights and religious issues, we have always advocated that the two sides should carry out dialogue and exchanges on the basis of equality and mutual respect." Nevertheless, the statement seemed less strident than usual when China reacts to foreign criticism of its rights record. To a larger extent than the average Chinese foreign ministry statement of this kind, it emphasised the common interests shared by the two nations. "A good Sino-US relationship is in accordance with the basic interests of our two nations and peoples, and contributes to peace, stability and development in the region and even the world," Qin said. "We are willing to constantly strengthen our dialogue and cooperation with the United States, in order to properly handle differences and sensitive issues." In his speech Bush expressed optimism about the future of China, but singled out areas where he thought the world's most populous nation could improve. "The United States believes the people of China deserve the fundamental liberty that is the natural right of all human beings," Bush said. "America stands in firm opposition to China's detention of political dissidents and human rights advocates and religious activists," he said.