Yet again, the glitz and glamour of the Miss World pageant has also become the stage for some very shady international shenanigans and implications of censorship to please China.
Last year, Anastasia Lin, the reigning Miss World Canada, was infamously forced to watch the 65th annual Miss World finals on television after being blocked from attending the event, held at the seaside resort city of Sanya on Hainan island, by Chinese authorities. To make amends, the London-based pageant organizers allowed Lin to compete in this year’s finals held in Washington, D.C.
However, that doesn’t appear to have been far enough away to escape from Chinese interference. Friends and relatives of the Canadian beauty queen recently told The New York Times that for the past few weeks, Lin has been barred from speaking to the media and has been told not to discuss human rights issues at the pageant.
Which is a serious problem for Lin, because human rights advocacy is a big part of who she is and her platform as a Miss World contestant. Along with being an actor and pianist, Lin is also a very vocal opponent of the Chinese government and a practitioner of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that has been banned in mainland China and deemed an “evil cult.”
Her views seem to have dashed any hopes she might have had of becoming Miss World. Last year, she was the only pageant contestant to be denied a Chinese visa. Lin tried to attend anyway, taking a plane to Hong Kong and then attempting to hop on another plane for Sanya, where Canadian citizens can legally obtain a visa upon arrival. However, authorities in Hong Kong snuffed out her plan and prevented her from boarding the plane.
While this time around Lin has at least managed to physically attend the event, much to her disappointment she has also found that her voice has been silenced by pageant organizers. Turns out that the London-based Miss World is mostly funded by Chinese companies these days. Since 2003, the pageant has been held in Sanya six times.
Which explains why Lin’s friends told the Times that the Canadian beauty queen had been prevented from attending the American premeir of a film that she acted in, The Bleeding Edge — a thriller revolving around a Chinese government-run program that harvests organs from dissidents.
Reportedly, Miss World executives even refused to allow Lin to meet with a US State Department official, only relenting after she agreed to be accompanied by a pageant representative.
The 26-year-old Lin was born and raised in Hunan province, 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.
Lin says her interest in human rights began when she heard stories from other Chinese citizens who had fled China because they said they were being targeted by the government. She has since performed in films about the abuse of Falun Gong members and spoken about the subject to a US Congressional committee last July.
Last 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. Lin said that her father had been forced into bankruptcy because of harassment from public security officials. Family members claimed that officials did not allow him to travel to Washington for the finals this year.
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.
Rather than silencing her, China’s actions against Lin seem to have only amplified her voice. In the past year, she has been invited to speak about human rights in a number of public forums.
Still, a year later, it doesn’t seem as though authorities have changed their strategy when it comes to Lin. In an article published yesterday, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby writes about his recent attempts to interview Lin:
I called Lin in Toronto a month ago, proposing that I meet her in Washington for an interview during the contestants’ three-week stay there. She readily agreed, asking only that I arrange the interview through official Miss World channels, as the pageant’s detailed regulations specify. My repeated requests to Miss World, however, went unacknowledged. Morley may claim that “really listening to her speak” is what Miss World wants for each contestant. Yet for weeks the organization stonewalled numerous inquiries from news organizations wanting to listen to Lin.
I went to Washington anyway and approached Lin in the lobby of her hotel. She agreed to talk for a few minutes, but only on the condition that we sit in the lobby, openly, hiding nothing from anyone.
“I’m trying to play by the book,” she said. She couldn’t imagine that pageant officials would want to keep her from advancing her purpose: freedom and dignity for Chinese prisoners of conscience. “I don’t care about all this — the hair, the dresses,” she said. “I just want to get to that stage and be the voice for people who are silenced.”
Moments later, it was Lin who was silenced. A Miss World employee saw us talking, and demanded an explanation. I began to answer, but Lin cut me off with the unvarnished truth: “This is a writer from The Boston Globe who came down to Washington to talk to me.” The employee instantly called in reinforcements. Soon there were three officials. Two of them hustled Lin from the lobby, angrily accusing her of breaching the rules and causing trouble. The third blocked me from talking to Lin, and assured me that my interview would be scheduled the next day. It wasn’t, of course.
Miss World has declined to answer questions about restrictions that they have placed on Lin. The final competition will be broadcast live from Washington on December 18th and 1 billion people will be watching. Should be interesting…
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