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in brief: michelle obama urges open internet access in china

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Speaking at the Stanford Centre at Peking University, Michelle Obama told a Chinese audience that they would be unable to advance its education goals without easing Internet restrictions and allowing greater freedom of expression.

The First Lady was careful to preface her comments by stating that the United States ‘must respect the uniqueness’ of other cultures and societies.

Mrs. Obama said ‘when it comes to expressing yourself freely, and worshipping as you choose, and having open access to information – we believe those are universal rights that are the birthright of every person in this planet.’

Just the night before, Mrs. Obama met Chinese President Xi Jinping after touring schools and the Forbidden City with Mr. Xi’s wife, Peng Liyuan.

Mrs. Obama’s comments surprised some of the US and Chinese students in the audience, but the general idea of her address was that more young people in the United States need to study and work overseas, and improve relations with person-to-person contact.

‘We view study-abroad programs not just as an educational opportunity for students, but also as a vital part of America’s foreign policy,’ she said.

She continued by saying that ‘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.’

Whether or not anyone in China will heed Mrs. Obama’s advice is another question though. Since Mr. Xi became the President in late 2012, the government has tightened up what China’s citizens can access and post on the web.

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