Chinese student Yang Shuping issued an apology on Chinese social media after delivering a graduation speech in which she compared the fresh air and politics of her homeland to those in the United States.
In a commencement speech Sunday at the University of Maryland, Yang described her experience of landing in the United States and not having to wear any of her five air pollution masks.
"People often ask me, 'Why did you come to the University of Maryland? I always answer, 'Fresh air," Yang said in her address.
She went on to say that she would soon feel another kind of fresh air, that being "the fresh air of free speech."
"Democracy and freedom are the fresh air that is worth fighting for," she concluded.
Video of her speech was viewed more than 50 million times on Chinese social media prompting intense and swift reaction from commenters who accused her of lying about air quality in her hometown of Kunming.
China’s foreign ministry urged its citizens to "make remarks responsibly."
Yang issued an apology on Monday saying she had no intention of belittling her country.