News / USA

In China, Michelle Obama Praises US Progress on Civil, Religious Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama (L) sits in for an English class with students at Chengdu No. 7 High School during her visit in Chengdu, Sichuan province, March 25, 2014.
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama (L) sits in for an English class with students at Chengdu No. 7 High School during her visit in Chengdu, Sichuan province, March 25, 2014.
VOA News
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama touted America's progress on ethnic equality, civil rights and religious freedom as she continued her tour of China.

Obama made the comments Tuesday during a speech to Chinese students at a prestigious high school in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

She said that in America, hard-working people can succeed "no matter where you live or how much your parents have...or what race, religion, or ethnicity you are."

The first lady has largely avoided controversial political issues during her week-long trip, instead focusing on topics such as education.

One exception was Saturday, when she told a group of Chinese and American students that freedom of religion and access to information were "universal human rights."

China is among the most repressive nations in the world concerning free speech, cracking down on dissent, blocking many news and online sites, and censoring Internet news that Beijing considers objectionable.

The U.S. also routinely criticizes China for its treatment of Tibetans and Uighur Muslims, who complain of government persecution and restrictions on their religious practices.

Obama, who is traveling with her two daughters and mother, last week met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. She has also visited popular tourists sites, such as the Great Wall of China and the former Imperial Palace.

She is set to depart for Washington on Wednesday.
  • U.S. first lady Michelle Obama practices tai chi with students at Chengdu No.7 High School in Chengdu in southwest China's Sichuan province, March 25, 2014.
  • U.S. first lady Michelle Obama looks at a terracotta warrior as she visits Qinshihuang Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum with her daughters, Malia and Sasha, and her mother, Marian Shields Robinson, in Xi'an, March 24, 2014.
  • U.S. first lady Michelle Obama walks with her daughters Malia and Sasha as they visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China, March 23, 2014.
  • U.S. first lady Michelle Obama speaks next to U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus as they attend a round table discussion on education at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, March 23, 2014.
  • U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, followed by her daughters Malia and Sasha, is greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan at the Diaoyutai State guest house in Beijing, March 21, 2014.
  • Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, shows U.S. first lady Michelle Obama how to hold a writing brush as they visit a Chinese traditional calligraphy class at the Beijing Normal School, March 21, 2014.
  • U.S. first lady Michelle Obama plays table tennis at the Beijing Normal School, a school that prepares students to attend colleges overseas, March 21, 2014.
  • U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, her daughters Sasha and Malia and her mother Marian Robinson pose with Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping, as they visit Forbidden City in Beijing, March 21, 2014.

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Comment Sorting
by: Jacob from: India
March 25, 2014 1:14 PM
I was truly amazed to see the headline that America is making progress in religious rights. I am rather certain that if you did a survey of frequent church goers, you would find that they profoundly disagree with this. Rather, there is a constant erosion of freedom of religion under Obama such as never has happened in American history. If she is speaking what she truly believes, she is very profoundly misinformed or not very widely read. Religious Americans are shocked at what is happening under this government as it goes beyond anything they could have previously imagined.
In Response

by: Derek from: NYC
March 26, 2014 10:03 AM
Jacob's comment doesn't seem founded in reality. He cites no specific examples of violations of freedom of religion in the USA. The US is not just a Christian nation anymore, it's a multi-faith nation. We need to respect all religious beliefs and we need to uphold civil rights of minorities. I have my own strong disagreements w/ Obama but freedom of religion is not one of them. The real religious freedom violations are occurring in China and Chinese-occupied Tibet and East Turkestan.
In Response

by: JeryD from: NYC
March 25, 2014 6:46 PM
Jacob - religious rights is more than Christian rights. It is the right for anyone to believe in what they believe - Muslim whatever - after 9/11 it was almost embarassing to be called Muslim - this is changing slowly for the better - this is also part of the progress. Greater acceptance of others to be free to practice a religion that is different from the masses. In many part of the world Christians are a minotity and also should be given that respect irrespective of what the wider population is practicing.

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