Trending Topics

Michelle Obama Takes Message of Equality, Freedom of Speech to China

Michalle Obama in China 2014

Credit: Fend Li/Getty Images

Michelle Obama and her two daughters traveled to China last week where the first lady took the opportunity to push for equality and promote freedom of speech.

Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia took a weeklong trip to China where they enjoyed trips to the Great Wall and the Forbidden City in Beijing.

While the trio made plenty of time to experience country’s most popular tourist attractions, the first lady had an even bigger agenda.

In the midst of controversy over China’s regulation of the Internet and exiling Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, Obama found subtle ways to share a political message.

During a speech she delivered at a high school on Tuesday, Obama stressed to the students that the United States championed “the right to say what we think and worship as we choose.”

She then made a personal connection with the Tibetan community in China, as she shared how the serious issues of discrimination have plagued the United States.

“Many decades ago, there were actually laws in America that allowed discrimination against Black people like me, who are a minority in the United States,” she said. “But over time, ordinary citizens decided that those laws were unfair. So they held peaceful protests and marches.”

It wasn’t long before the first lady’s usual charismatic approach had her young audience fully engaged.

She explained that over the course of time, the U.S. has started to make progress and move in the right direction, ultimately leading to her husband’s election as its first Black president.

Michelle Obama talks freedom of expression, equality in China

Credit: Petar Kujundzic/ Reuters

Throughout the vacation, Obama repeated the same message. She continued to promote the freedom of expression and minority rights in a community where the Internet is heavily censored and Tibetans are  repressed along with other ethic minorities.

At one point, she even claimed that free expression on the Internet is key to a prosperous society.

It wasn’t just her words that sparked speculation of “political overtones.”

Obama’s choice of restaurant for lunch on Wednesday sent out another message.

The first lady lunched at a Tibetan restaurant in China’s Sichuan province.

Sichuan is where many Tibetan protests have led to self-immolation, which is when a person sets their body on fire as a form of protest.

“This carries strong political overtones, meant to communicate that the U.S. is paying close attention to politics in Tibet,” one online comment read. “When it’s plain that the aim is to dictate to China, can you still say that the U.S. first lady’s trip is just innocent travel?”

During her stay, Obama also stressed the importance of education and shared her own story of waking up at the crack of dawn to study for school.

Back to top