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
"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
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
The United States frequently criticizes 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
criticized other countries' human rights records on trips abroad
while their husbands were in office.
[to top of second column]
U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus also touched on
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)
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