Target: Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States
Goal: Commend First Lady for Speaking Out on Free Speech in China
On a recent trip to Beijing, China, while avoiding criticizing the Chinese government directly, First Lady Michelle Obama effectively called for greater freedom of information within China and a loosening of restrictions on information and the Internet. China, which places great restriction on freedom of information and expression, has come under fire recently for a variety of human rights violations. It is a bold and brave move on the part of the First Lady to call for greater transparency and access to information on such a trip, unaccompanied by the President and not in an official policymaking context.
Mrs. Obama was speaking to students at the Stanford Centre at Peking University on Saturday, March 22 when she made the remarks regarding access to the Internet. In a 15 minute speech she told young people, according to The Guardian, that “freedom of speech and unfettered access to information make countries stronger and should be universal rights.”
Students were impressed. Although Facebook and Twitter are banned in China, news of the First Lady’s remarks spread like wildfire over other social media platforms, and among news outlets outside of China. Even experts have taken notice. The Guardian reports,
“I was very impressed by her speech mentioning freedom of speech,” said Zhang Lifan, an independent historian who said he had read about it in overseas Chinese media. “Although the Chinese constitution guarantees freedom of speech, Chinese citizens don’t really enjoy that right. I think she just reminded China in a polite and mild way that not allowing freedom of speech is not conducive to China.”
Although Mrs. Obama has since changed that part of her speech at other appearances throughout China, she has continued to stress the importance of education in an ever-changing landscape of opportunities. Thank her for speaking out today.
Dear Mrs. Michelle Obama,
Thank you for speaking out on access to the Internet, freedom of information, and freedom of expression on your visit to China. This is an important message for young people and students in China to hear. I agree with you that these rights are universal and an important foundation to modern society.
I commend you for your frankness and honesty, and hope you will continue to speak out on behalf of those whose rights have been restricted.
[Your Name Here]
photo credit: Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy via Wikimedia Commons