Pressing for freedoms on China's own turf, President Barack Obama said Monday that individual expression is not an American ideal but a universal right that should be available to all.
In his first presidential trip to Asia, Obama lauded cooperative relations with China but sought to send a clear message to his tightly controlled host country. Just as Obama said few problems can be solved unless US and China work together, he prodded China to accept what he called "universal rights."
"We do not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation," Obama said at a town hall at a museum here, believed to be the first such forum held by a US president on Chinese soil. "But we also don't believe that the principles that we stand for our unique to our nation."
He added: "These freedoms of expression, and worship, of access to information and political participation - we believe they are universal rights. They should be available to all people, including ethnic and religious minorities, whether they are in the United States, China or any nation."
Obama sought to find a political balance with China, addressing long-standing US concerns about human rights but extending his hand to a critically important partner on economic and security matters.