Michelle Obama and the Girls take on China for Spring Break and the issue of Free Speech

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On a visit that was supposed to be nonpolitical, first lady Michelle Obama delivered an unmistakable message to the Chinese on Saturday, saying in a speech here that freedom of speech, particularly on the Internet and in the news media, provided the foundation for a vibrant society.

On the second day of a weeklong trip to China with her two daughters and her mother, Mrs. Obama spoke to an audience of Americans and Chinese at Peking University, and in the middle of an appeal for more American students to study abroad, she also talked of the value for people of hearing “all sides of every argument.”  “Time and again, we have seen that countries are stronger and more prosperous when the voices and opinions of all their citizens can be heard,” she said.

The United States, she said, respected the “uniqueness” of other cultures and societies. “But when it comes to expressing yourself freely,” she said, “and worshiping as you choose, and having open access to information — we believe those are universal rights that are the birthright of every person on this planet.”

The forthright exposition of the American belief in freedom of speech came against a backdrop of broad censorship of the Internet by the Chinese government. The government polices the Internet to prevent the nation’s 500 million users from seeing antigovernment sentiment, and blocks a variety of foreign websites, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The authorities compel domestic Internet sites to censor themselves.

WHUR


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