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March 22, 2014 AT 5:13 AM
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama told an audience of college students in the Chinese capital on Saturday that open access to information - especially online - is a universal right. 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. Obama said to an audience of about 200 U.S. and Chinese students at Beijing's prestigious Peking University, "It is so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the internet and through the media." 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 restrictions.