Freedom of expression is a universal human right, first lady Michelle Obama said Saturday in Beijing.
“We respect the uniqueness of other cultures and societies, but 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,”Obama said at Peking University, where she later met with young Chinese students and connected with American students at Stanford University via video conference.
The first lady said technology has the potential to “open up the entire world and expose us to ideas and innovations we could never have imagined,” according to a White House transcript of her remarks.
“That’s why it’s so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the Internet and through the media, because that’s how we discover the truth,” Obama said.
Obama’s comments on free speech were direct, but she kept them short. Her speech mostly focused on the benefits of studying abroad and learning about other cultures. The first lady is on a non-political, “people-to-people” trip in China with her daughters and mother.
China’s restrictive Internet policing has long been criticized for restricting free speech. Chinese officials have criticized a ban that punishes people for spreading rumors online.
Obama also spoke briefly about the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, which disappeared more than two weeks ago. More than 150 Chinese passengers were onboard the flight. “As my husband has said, the United States is offering as many resources as possible to assist in the search. And please know that we are keeping all of the families and loved ones of those on this flight in our thoughts and prayers at this very difficult time,” she said.