View Slideshow

BEIJING — Michelle Obama’s visit to China took a turn for the political on Saturday, as the US first lady spoke to the need for universal rights and freedom of expression.

“Time and again, we have seen that countries are stronger and more prosperous when the voices and opinions of all their citizens can be heard,” Obama told an audience at Peking University in the capital.

Obama is in China with her mother and two daughters at the invitation of Chinese first lady Peng Liyaun. The First Lady wore a multicolor abstract print Carolina Herrera silk dress for her appearance at Peking University on Saturday, where she spoke to American and Chinese students at Stanford Center, extolling the virtues of study abroad programs to further global understanding. She also spoke of the need to study foreign languages.

RELATED STORY: Michelle Obama, the Lady in Red >>

That was reinforced later when Obama went to the Summer Palace to meet a group of school children from the Thomas and Scott Middle Schools in the Chicago suburb of Arlington, many of whom had been studying Chinese for up to five years.

Obama, who changed clothing after giving her morning speech at the Stanford Center, approached the children with her daughters Sasha and Malia by her side. Her mother, Marian Robinson, later. Obama was wearing wide-legged trousers, a patterned turquoise blouse and ballet flats. She bantered with the students before she and her daughters began shaking each of the children’s hands.

Obama and her daughters and mother then took open chairs in the center of the group before the performance began. Loud cymbals served as a cue for “Hou Xi,” known as the Monkey Performance, traditional Chinese performance art. Dancers in masks paraded, whipping swords in the air. Obama whispered something in Malia’s ear and they both laughed. After some daring act on stage, Obama clapped with her arms far from her chest and let out a small “whoop.”

The performance lasted less than five minutes and it was then time for goodbyes, Obama and her daughter waving as they left.