China has accused the US of using internet surveillance to spy on its leaders and key institutions.

A report released by a government agency said that China had been a main target for US spies, who had focused on government officials, businesses and mobile phone users.

It called the behaviour “brazen” and a “gross violation of human rights”.

Last week the US charged five Chinese army officers with cyber-espionage.

The report by the China Internet Media Research Centre looked at claims made by US whistleblower and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and said that several government agencies had confirmed the existence of spying.

“As a superpower, the United States takes advantage of its political, economic, military and technological hegemony to unscrupulously monitor other countries, including its allies,” said an extract of the report published in the Guardian.

Hacking conference ban

“The United States’ spying operations have gone far beyond the legal rationale of ‘anti-terrorism’ and have exposed its ugly face of pursuing self-interest in complete disregard of moral integrity.”

The report also said that the US was violating international law and breaching human rights.

Beijing had reacted angrily to the news that the US was charging five of its army officers with hacking. They were accused of illegally accessing several large US companies and trying to steal trade secrets.

China accused the US of hypocrisy and double standards and released a statement saying it “had never engaged in any cyber-espionage activities”.

Reports surfaced over the weekend that a senior administration official in Washington had floated the idea of Chinese hackers having visa restrictions placed on them so they could not attend the Def Con and Black Hat hacking conference held annually in Las Vegas.

The official was reported to have said the restrictions were to keep the pressure on China after their army officials were charged.

Chris Wysopal, who is on the Black Hat review board, told Reuters that any ban would be ineffective as talks from the conference were posted online or sold as DVDs.

The founder of Black Hat and Def Con, Jeff Moss, tweeted to say that he had not heard about the visa restrictions but said: “I don’t think it helps build positive community.”