U.S. vice president urges Chinese to challenge their leaders

BEIJING Wed Dec 4, 2013 10:46am GMT

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks as he meets visa applicants at the U.S. Embassy Consular Section in Beijing December 4, 2013. REUTERS/Ng Han Guan/Pool

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks as he meets visa applicants at the U.S. Embassy Consular Section in Beijing December 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Ng Han Guan/Pool

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BEIJING (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden encouraged Chinese visa applicants to "challenge their government" during a brief meeting at the U.S. embassy in Beijing on Wednesday.

Biden, accompanied by Ambassador Gary Locke, waved and greeted hundreds of Chinese queuing at the visa hall.

"Innovation can only occur when you can breathe free, challenge the government, challenge your teachers, challenge religious leaders," Biden said.

Biden is visiting the Chinese capital at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart Li Yuanchao, though he is also meeting President Xi Jinping.

Top of the agenda on his trip is China's new air defence identification zone in the East China Sea, which has rattled Washington, Tokyo and Seoul.

Biden has sought to reach out to ordinary Chinese before, visiting a noodle restaurant for lunch during a visit to Beijing in 2011.

"If you come to Washington, tell them you spoke to me here and I promise you'll be able to get to see me," Biden added, to laughter from the waiting visa applicants.

(Reporting by Reuters Television; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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