BEIJING — China’s top official in charge of fighting copyright piracy on Sunday criticised what he said was a deliberate distortion of the problem by the western media, which was caused by the country’s poor global image, saying important facts had been ignored.

Foreign governments, including the US, have for years urged China to take a stronger stand against pervasive violations of intellectual property rights on products ranging from medicines to software to DVD movies sold on the black market.

The US in April again put China, along with Russia, on its annual list of countries with the worst records of preventing the theft of copyrighted material and other intellectual property. But the head of China’s State Intellectual Property Office, Tian Lipu, said the government’s efforts were being ignored.

"Speaking honestly, there is a market. People use and buy pirated goods," Mr Tian said on the sidelines of the Communist Party congress.

"To a large extent, China’s intellectual property rights protection image has been distorted by western media. China’s image overseas is very poor. As soon as people hear China they think (of) piracy and counterfeiting — (Beijing’s) Sanlitun, that place in Shanghai, Luohu in Shenzhen," he said, referring to places notorious for selling fake goods.

"We don’t deny (this problem), and we are continuing to battle against it," Mr Tian said.

But other facts were overlooked, he said. "For example, China is the world’s largest payer for patent rights, for trademark rights, for royalties, and one of the largest for buying real software," he said.

Microsoft and other members of the Business Software Alliance (BSA) in the US complain nearly 80% of the software installed on personal computers in China is pirated. Mr Tian said if companies such as Apple, also a BSA member, were so worried about piracy, they would never have chosen China as their production bases.

Sapa-DPA