Loosen internet control, Obama urges China

U.S. President Barack Obama, on his state visit to China, urged the country's leadership to stop censoring the internet.
U.S. President Barack Obama greets students after speaking at a town hall-style event with Chinese youth at the Museum of Science and Technology in Shanghai on Nov. 16. ((Charles Dharapak/Associated Press))
U.S. President Barack Obama, on his first state visit to China, on Monday urged the country to loosen up its control of the internet.

"I think that the more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable," Obama said Monday during a town hall meeting with students in Shanghai. "They can begin to think for themselves."

Obama's remark was seen as a prodding of the Chinese government, which tightly controls the access of the country's estimated 250 million internet users.

"I'm a big supporter of non-censorship," Obama said. "I recognize that different countries have different traditions. I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free internet — or unrestricted internet access — is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged."

While pushing the Chinese leadership, Obama also urged co-operation between the United States and China.

"We do not seek to contain China's rise," Obama said.

From Shanghai, Obama headed to Beijing, where he met at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse with Chinese President Hu Jintao. They were expected to discuss trade, climate change and economic issues.

Obama and the Chinese leader then had dinner in the government complex and were slated to meet again Tuesday.

While Obama was in China, a Hong Kong-based human rights group said the Chinese government had placed about a dozen activists around the country under house arrest in a bid to control dissent.

China Human Rights Defenders said the activists were warned against "making trouble" while the U.S. president was in the country.