Next month, China will host the finals for the 65th Miss World beauty contest at a seaside resort in Sanya, Hainan. However, with the deadline for registration a week away, it is still not clear if one particular contestant will be able to compete.
Anastasia Lin, the current Miss Canada, is reportedly being denied a Chinese visa, likely due to her advocacy of human rights causes in China, especially her speaking out against Beijing’s persecution of Falun Gong adherents.
The 25-year-old Lin was born and raised in Hunan, but now has Canadian citizenship. She moved to the country at the age of 13 with her mother, going on to graduate from the University of Toronto and building a career as a model, actress and activist.
The cutoff date for entry into the beauty pageant is November 20th, but Lin, a follower of Falun Gong, has yet to receive an official invitation from inside China, without which she can not complete her Chinese visa application, reports Radio Canada International.
According to The Globe and Mail, Lin says that all the other contestants already received their invitations last month. She believes that her outspoken views on human rights abuses in China have put her pageant chances in serious jeopardy and is calling for support.
“This is a moment when we show those who are trying to silence us who we are,” she said in an interview on Tuesday. “If everyone involved took a stance on this issue, I don’t think China would dare to bully.”
However, Ike Lalji, the chairman and chief executive of Miss World Canada, told Reuters that Lin’s attitude has changed in the past two days and she is now willing to agree not to speak about human rights abuses in China if she is allowed to participate in the pageant finals. Reuters reports:
Ike Lalji, the chairman and chief executive of Miss World Canada, said he had assured officials at the pageant’s London headquarters that Lin would focus on the contest and not “her cause” if she was allowed to attend the Dec. 19 contest final in Sanya, China.
“I guarantee if she goes there she will just focus on the competition, she will not get involved in her cause,” Lalji said in a telephone interview. “It’s a compromise.”
Lin, who has consistently said she will not be silent told Reuters that she never agreed to any such arrangement.
“They can’t guarantee anything without getting me involved, and this is the first time I’ve heard of this,” Lin, 25, said in a telephone interview. “I have never agreed to such a thing.”
When asked about Lin’s delicate situation, Canadian officials have all said that they cannot comment, except to say that they strongly promote human rights.
However, The Globe and Mail got a more straight forward response from Lalji:
When asked about Ms. Lin’s status earlier this week, the legal associate at the group’s London head office, Jai Gillman-Smith, wrote, “I am at a loss to understand why you should be asking this question.” Ms. Gillman-Smith then pointed The Globe to its website, where Ms. Lin is still listed as a contestant.
Miss World Canada’s chief executive officer, Ike Lalji, however, acknowledged the visa wrinkle, saying that he will do his best to expedite the process through China’s consulate in Vancouver if Ms. Lin is approved for travel.
In the meantime, Mr. Lalji expressed uncertainty. “All the girls in the pageant are supporting some kind of cause: Human trafficking or bullying,” he said. “But her cause is directly related to China, so I don’t know how it will react.”
In an interview with RFA, Lin says she is still optistimic about her chances:
There are still 10 days to go, so we haven’t given up hope yet. Miss World understands that I did a few things with the intention of helping some people out. I hope they will understand that was the whole reason I took part in this contest in the first place. Maybe they’ll move the contest if the Chinese government doesn’t give me a visa.
I am 25 years old, and I just graduated from college. I don’t represent a threat of any kind to them. I just wanted to speak out on behalf of some Chinese people. I think that it would show the world how international they’ve become if they allowed me to go.
Earlier this year, Lin penned an op-ed in The Washington Post claiming that her father, who still lives in China, had started receiving threats from Chinese security agents complaining about his daughter’s human rights advocacy.
Despite the threats, Lin vowed to carry on her work. In the article she wrote:
Many people have asked me why I have continued speaking out after my father was threatened. The answer is simple: If I allow myself to be intimidated, then I am complicit in continued human rights abuses. If I and others who share my concerns allow ourselves to be silenced, the Communist Party will continue abusing its people with impunity.