China vigorously denied U.S. charges Monday that members of a secretive military unit in Shanghai engaged in cyber-espionage against American companies, calling the allegations “absurd” and asserting that China is actually the “victim” of U.S. cybertheft and spying.

Reacting to an indictment unveiled by the Obama administration against five People’s Liberation Army officers, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that Beijing is suspending participation in the Sino-U.S. Cyber Working Group, a body established in April 2013 to follow up allegations of Chinese hacking attacks on U.S. entities.

In a statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said: “The United States fabricated facts in an indictment of five officers for so-called cybertheft by China, a move that seriously violates basic norms of international relations and damages Sino-U.S. cooperation and mutual trust. China has lodged a protest with the United States, urged the U.S. to correct the error immediately and withdraw its so-called prosecution.”

Qin asserted that “China is a staunch defender of cyber security” and denied that the Chinese government, military and “associated personnel” have ever “engaged or participated in the theft of trade secrets through cyber means.” He called the U.S. accusations “purely fictitious, extremely absurd.”

The statement continued: “For a long time, it has been obvious that the relevant U.S. departments have been carrying out large-scale, organized cybertheft and cyber-surveillance on foreign dignitaries, corporations and individuals. China is the victim of U.S. cybertheft and cyber-surveillance.” It accused U.S. authorities of “constantly conducting cyber-intrusions, surveillance and monitoring against the Chinese government departments, agencies, businesses, universities and individuals,” adding that “China has already lodged solemn complaints” with the U.S. government and urges it to “explain itself clearly and immediately stop such activities.”

The Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima breaks down the significance of the Justice Department’s decision to charge the Chinese military with cyber-espionage against American companies. (Jackie Kucinich/The Washington Post)

Qin said: “Given the lack of sincerity by the United States for cooperation to solve cyber-security problems through dialogue, China has decided to suspend the activities of Sino-U.S. Cyber Working Group. China will assess developments of the so-called U.S. prosecution for further reaction.”