• Wed
  • Oct 1, 2014
  • Updated: 8:36am

Freedom of expression is 'birth right,' Michelle Obama tells Peking University students

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 March, 2014, 1:57pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 March, 2014, 11:24am

In a speech to Peking University students yesterday, US first lady Michelle Obama defended freedom of expression and other "universal rights" - sensitive concepts that mainland university professors were banned from teaching a year ago.

The remarks - the closest the first lady has so far come to discussing politics during her China visit - came during an otherwise soft speech in which she encouraged students to study abroad and cited her own success as a testament to hard work.

"When it comes to expressing yourself freely and worshipping as you choose and having open access to information, we believe those universal rights - they are universal rights that are the birthright of every person on this planet," she said. "We believe that all people deserve the opportunity to fulfil their highest potential, as I was able to do in the United States."

Obama's audience at the university's Stanford Centre included about 200 Chinese and American students, new US ambassador Max Baucus, Peking University dean Wang Enge and the directors of top American university programmes in China.

Universal values, freedom of speech and civil rights were among seven sensitive topics banned from universities last March as part of a broader Communist Party crackdown on "dangerous" Western ideas.

Echoing her remarks in a Caixin interview before beginning her trip, Obama said she and her husband valued criticism from the public. "We have seen that countries are stronger and more prosperous when the voices of and opinions of all their citizens can be heard," she said.

Obama's visit comes at a delicate time for Sino-US relations, as Beijing and Washington attempt to navigate regional territorial disputes, trade friction and sabre-rattling by North Korea. The trip by the US first lady has been widely seen by Chinese analysts as an attempt to promote US soft power in China.


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This article is now closed to comments

Freedom of expression? What about McCarthyism?
Whenever the US and her allies talk of freedom of expression, human rights, democracy what they actually mean is that their right to lie, slander, sabotage, oppress and invade others backed by their immoral military should not be challenged. A lot of double standards best epitomised by war criminals like George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and others.
Formerly ******
J R:
Your comment is just too silly to deserve a substantive response; however, I see that you'd make a good true believer. You seem to be the type who'd be out with the crowd waving a little red book and shouting praises of Chairman Mao. Yes, you're a good, devout worshipper of the religion of hate America.
Of course, someone as smart as you surely knows that most criticism of the US derives from envy of the US.
Freedom of expression? Ask her husband what the IRS, EPA and DHS do to Americans who engage in "Tea Party" politics.
A lot of the comments on this thread imply that Mrs Obama shouldn't have discussed the importance of freedom of expression because she was being hypocritical, as the USA's record on human rights and foreign interventions leaves a lot to be desired. Well, true though the criticisms of the USA might be, it's illogical and damaging to use it as an excuse to keep quiet about this subject.
If people think that makes China right to clamp down on freedom of expression they are living in La-La Land. Perhaps if people in China were more able to enjoy freedom of expression and talk about things freely, then hundreds of millions of people might not be facing a curtailed lifespan thanks to industrial pollution that could be alleviated if it was more open to discussion.
Anyway, whether Mrs Obama was right to raise it at all is moot - chances are the CCP won't allow those remarks to be reported anyway.
Isn't the guest pretty rude to criticize her host even if in a veiled way? How about a high-power visitor to the US using a limelight position to tell the US to stop meddling in the world and to close its inhumane prison camps outside the Geneva Convention rules?
problem here in gold ol' USA is, we sure have a lot of "freedom of speech".. but that's all we do.. nobody does anything... fix our social security, medicare, fix our infrastructure, fix our economy, fix our crimes and violence... none... all they do is talk... "freedom of speech"...
Freedom of speech in the US is for the billionaires and corporations that can buy off the government. Simple as that.
Formerly ******
Mr. Hen:
Then how do you explain the fact that more Americans are registered as Democrats than as Republicans? How do you explain the election of POTUS Obama? Have you considered the fact the people along the entire spectrum of US politics form interest groups (that is, lobbyist organizations) to advocate for their positions? Some examples are unions, environmentalists, welfare rights groups, etc.
Hey, America, land of the free and the home of the brave; you have to love this country. Had there not been a US or had there been a US that concerned itself only with itself, then, today, the western half of the world would be German speaking and all of Asia would speak Japanese.




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