Miss World Canada Risks Competition Chances for Human Rights in China - New Canadian Media

Miss World Canada Risks Competition Chances for Human Rights in China

Winning Miss World Canada in May was a dream come true for actress Anastasia Lin. Having won second runner-up in 2013, the 25-year-old was ecstatic…

Winning Miss World Canada in May was a dream come true for actress Anastasia Lin.

Having won second runner-up in 2013, the 25-year-old was ecstatic about her victory as it meant she would be going back to the country she was born in to compete.

She couldn’t wait to call her father back in China to tell him the big news. “He was so happy,” she tells New Canadian Media. “He was just jumping up. He was super proud.”

But a few days after her win, he grew too fearful to speak to her.

With news of his daughter’s pageant win spreading across China, Lin says security forces visited her father and told him that their communication was under scrutiny due to her human rights advocacy work.

I actually had emotional breakdown at the beginning quite a few times a day,” she recalls.

“When I try to call him, he doesn’t pick up. [I] felt very vulnerable. There’s nothing I can really do and I don’t know how I can improve the situation. I don’t get to know from him directly.”

Freedom of expression hindered

Born and raised in the Hunan province of China, Lin moved to Vancouver when she was 13, and she relocated to Toronto to attend university. In June, she graduated with a degree in theatre production from the University of Toronto.

Lin, who has been outspoken about freedom of expression and religious beliefs, has appeared in films with human rights themes in China such as The Bleeding Edge, where she plays an imprisoned Falun Gong practitioner. In 2011, she was also one of 10 youth leaders selected to provide input about the establishment of Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom.

Lin has also been vocal for the need for more attention on the persecution of religious communities in China, including Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans, Uighurs and underground Christians and Catholics. The Communist Party, which remains an atheist organization, currently only formally recognizes five religions in China: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism and Catholicism related to the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

“Right now, I’m outside of China. I’m in Canada and my freedom of expression has been hindered because they threatened my dad to put pressure on me.”

Lin’s story has already gained international attention, which includes a blog post she wrote about her experience for The Washington Post.

In July, she also spoke in Washington, DC at the Congressional Executive Commission on China, defending persecuted practitioners of Falun Gong and her concerns for her father’s safety.

“Right now, I’m outside of China. I’m in Canada and my freedom of expression has been hindered because they threatened my dad to put pressure on me,” she says, noting that she now mostly communicates with her father through her mother (who lives in Vancouver).

“This is how it feels: your family’s being held hostage. The security force wants me to know that they are the ones who are in control.”

Not backing down

But despite the warnings, Lin has no plans to stop speaking out.

Growing up, Lin was always encouraged by her mother, who was a university teacher in China, to express herself.

Lin, who admits she originally thought beauty pageants were a bit “superficial”, changed her mind about entering when she met former Miss World Canada Nazanin Afshin-Jam at a human rights assembly.

Lin has already received support from the federal government and people from China, and she remains optimistic about her chances of obtaining a visa to compete in Sanya, China in December.

Lin was further inspired to enter the competition after meeting an elderly lady from China who was volunteering on the set of one of her films.

Having noticed deep purple bruises on her legs, Lin learned that the woman was being abused at a labour camp in China. The two communicated and bonded on set. Some time later, Lin was shocked to learn the news of her death.

“She had been injected from some substance in the labour camp. It never really got cured. It was really hard,” Lin says. “I was like, ‘This has to stop.’”

“I’m not thinking of making trouble or giving a hard time to anybody or any government. I just want to give those people who don’t have a voice, a voice.”

Lin has already received support from the federal government and people from China, and she remains optimistic about her chances of obtaining a visa to compete in Sanya, China in December.

“When I say I want to go to China, I don’t want to embarrass anybody … I just want to go back to participate in this pageant,” she says, noting that she just wants to be able to express how she feels.

“The Canadian judges chose me to be their representative for a reason, and I think this is the best way to uphold Canadian values.”

While the idea of taking the title of Miss World 2015 is still far away, Lin adds that her goal will remain the same if she ends up winning. She hopes she can help encourage Chinese citizens to be able to speak up for themselves.

“I’m not thinking of making trouble or giving a hard time to anybody or any government. I just want to give those people who don’t have a voice, a voice.”

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