Michelle Obama tells Chinese students internet freedom's a universal right

BEIJING Sat Mar 22, 2014 2:20pm IST

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama (L) claps as she watches a performance at the Summer Palace in Beijing, March 22, 2014. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama (L) claps as she watches a performance at the Summer Palace in Beijing, March 22, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Petar Kujundzic

Related Topics

BEIJING (Reuters) - U.S. first lady Michelle Obama told an audience of college students in the Chinese capital on Saturday that open access to information - especially online - is a universal right.

But Obama stopped short of calling on China to offer its citizens greater freedoms on a visit in which she is expected to steer clear of more complicated political issues, but rather try to build goodwill through soft diplomacy.

"It is so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the internet and through the media," Obama said told an audience of about 200 U.S. and Chinese students at Beijing's prestigious Peking University.

"My husband and I are on the receiving end of plenty of questioning and criticism from our media and our fellow citizens, and it's not always easy," she added. "But I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."

Censorship in Chinese news media and online is widespread, and internet users in the country cannot access information about many controversial topics without special software to circumvent restrictions.

The United States frequently criticises China's human rights record, including its lack of protection of freedom of speech.

Obama, a Harvard-educated lawyer, is focusing on promoting education and cultural ties during the week-long trip, and will also visit the Great Wall, the historic city of Xi'an, and the southern city of Chengdu along with her mother and two daughters.

Former U.S. first ladies Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton both criticised other countries' human rights records on trips abroad while their husbands were in office.

U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus also touched on internet freedom on Saturday in remarks to the students before Obama's speech.

"Between texting, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat we're all interconnected," he said, describing how technology enables better communication between cultures.

Twitter and Facebook are both blocked in China.

(Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Nick Macfie)

FILED UNDER:

Uber Trouble

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Lakhvi's Bail

Lakhvi's Bail

Pakistan court bails man accused of masterminding Mumbai attack.  Full Article 

PM's Moves

PM's Moves

Modi moves in to speed up $300 billion stuck projects.  Full Article 

Coal Unions

Coal Unions

Coal India workers threaten five-day strike, stokes output worries.  Full Article 

Space Programme

Space Programme

ISRO tests its heaviest space launch vehicle, eyes global market.  Full Article 

Peshawar attack

Peshawar Attack

Some Pakistan militants denounce school attack, amid national outrage.  Full Article 

Uber Again

Uber Again

Uber driver in Boston charged with kidnapping and rape.  Full Article 

Discounts

Discounts

Dealers offer gold discount for first time in five months.  Full Article 

"PK" in Cinemas

"PK" in Cinemas

Secret of year's "biggest" Bollywood film is its plot.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device   Full Coverage