When she won the Miss World Canada crown in May, Anastasia Lin said her outspoken views on China got her father harassed by Chinese officials.
Now the Chinese-born Lin, a follower of Falun Gong, suspects that the People’s Republic is intentionally dawdling on a visa application that could cost her a spot at the upcoming Miss World pageant in Sanya, China.
“As a Canadian citizen I shouldn’t be afraid to speak my mind (and) by rejecting my candidacy, it’s sort of rejecting a whole country’s values,” Lin, 25, told the National Post by phone from Toronto.
While she is still in the running for the pageant, Lin has faced an unusual delay in obtaining a key recommendation letter from Chinese authorities needed to process her visa.
If she does not receive the letter in time for her departure on Nov. 20, it would mark the first time in 58 years Canada has not sent a contestant to what is now the world’s oldest surviving international beauty pageant.
Although a Canadian has never won the Miss World crown, past contenders have included CBC broadcaster Jacquie Perrin and Nazanin Afshan-Jam, a human-rights activist and the wife of former justice minister Peter MacKay.
Like the Iranian-born Afshan-Jam, Lin has been an outspoken critic of the country of her birth.
Since coming to Canada at the age of 13, the woman has become a follower of Falun Gong, a spiritualist movement that is outlawed in China — and whose members are at the forefront of protesting Chinese communist rule abroad.
An actress, Lin has appeared in The Bleeding Edge, a 2014 thriller about a Western entrepreneur attempting to save Lin’s character from having her organs harvested by the Chinese government.
After winning the Miss World Canada crown in May, Lin penned a column for the Washington Post alleging that Chinese security officials had visited her father in Hunan province.
“Shortly after my victory, my father started receiving threats from Chinese security agents complaining about my human rights advocacy,” she wrote.
“No doubt fearing for his livelihood and business, my father asked me to stop advocating for human rights.”
‘I wanted to speak for those in China who are beaten, burned, electrocuted for holding their beliefs’Last week, she gave a speech in London advocating Chinese religious freedom to the Henry Jackson Society, a pro-democracy British think tank. In July, she testified before a U.S. congressional committee on Chinese government persecution.
“I wanted to speak for those in China who are beaten, burned, electrocuted for holding their beliefs,” she told the committee of her decision to take part in the Miss World competition.
At the time, Lin’s efforts even received the backing of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs. In a May statement, department spokeswomen said it “commends” Lin’s activism and is “concerned about allegations that the Chinese government have harassed Ms. Lin’s family in China.”
On Dec. 19, after a month of events, the Miss World pageant will be held at the 7,000-room Beauty Crown Hotel in Sanya, a resort city on China’s southern coast.
As the hotel’s name might suggest, it has become a primary venue for the Miss World pageant in recent years, with its website boasting that it is the “birth place of 5 Miss Worlds.”
It was the venue in 2003, for instance, when Afshan-Jam became the runner-up.
At previous pageants, competitors have been able to obtain a Chinese visa armed solely with a recommendation letter issued by Miss World’s London headquarters.
“This year, for some reason, they also require a letter from organizers in China,” said Ike Lalji, chief executive officer of Miss World Canada.
Specifically, Miss World competitors were required to obtain a signed and stamped invitation letter from the foreign affairs office for the city of Sanya.
Lin has been in touch with fellow competitors who obtained their letters without incident, but said her attempts to contact organizers in Sanya and at the Beauty Crown Hotel have been ignored.
“This is not an administrative problem, I assume at this point,” she said.
Founded in London, the Miss World pageant originally rose to prominence in part because of its controversial inclusion of a swimsuit competition. The swimsuit component was removed just last year.
The 1967 pageant still ranks among the most-watched television shows in British history, although much like other beauty pageants such as Miss Universe and Miss America, Western interest has fallen in recent years.
However, Lin notes that the latest iteration of the pageant will likely reach an audience of millions in China.
“All Chinese people will be able to see my face, that’s why I want to go, I want them to see me and know that having conviction is not wrong,” she said.