(UPDATE: Anastasia Lin has NOT yet received the invitation required to apply for a visa to participate at the Miss World pageant in Sanya, China. The November 20 deadline has passed and rehearsals for the pageant will begin on November 23.)
Anastasia Lin is a Chinese-born actress, the winner of Miss World Canada 2015 and an outspoken human rights activist. She’s also a woman that China seems to be too afraid to let in the country.
The 25-year-old beauty queen is set to compete in the Miss World pageant which will be held in Sanya, China this year — that is, if the Chinese government will grant her a visa. So far, they have not responded. Lin explained to NextShark over the phone:
“On November 20th, if I don’t get my visa, theoretically I’m disqualified. But when I called Miss World and asked them what happens if I don’t get my invitation letter on the 20th, they didn’t give me a clear answer. They were like, ‘You aren’t disqualified, you just can’t go.’ But what’s difference, right?”
China’s hesitation is due to the fact that Lin is a vocal supporter of Falun Gong, a meditation-based spiritual practice that amassed tens of millions of followers until 1999 when it was branded a “heretical organization” by the Communist Party for threatening social stability. Falun Gong practitioners were subsequently silenced through the Communist Party’s harsh methods.
However, Lin wasn’t always a champion of religious freedom and free speech. Growing up in China, she was taught to mirror only the values the Communist Party deemed acceptable — her job was to brainwash younger children, she told us.
“I’m educated in the West, although yes, I experienced 13 years in China and there was a lot of brainwashing and indoctrination going on.
“Inside China, Falun Gong was branded a cult and I never had a second thought about that when I was growing up. I was a student leader and a student leader’s job was to spread propaganda.”
At the age of 13, following the split of her parents, she and her mother emigrated to Canada where she was exposed to Western media and values. Everything changed for her, she said.
“I came to Canada and my mind was opened up. I’m lucky to have a mother who opened up my eyes. It was her that started to tell me ‘You’ve got to change your way of thinking otherwise you will never be able to adapt in this country.’”
Now, she hopes to open the minds of the Chinese people, respectfully and peacefully, if she ever gets the chance to compete.
“I hope that I can give them hope and show them that Western society still cares about them. I want to show them that I can speak my mind and they can too. And I think that’s what the Communist Party is really afraid of.
“I want to do something for those people who still blindly believe what the communists say. It’s unhealthy, I think. Being able to think for yourself and express your views is so important.”
Lin explained how she believes the communist culture of state controlled media, propaganda and censorship have affected the free thought of the people:
“A lot of Chinese people, they self-censor and self-filter. Even if they have free access to the information and to the internet, they decide to not listen.
“They would do their best to defend communism, and I was one of them until my mom opened up my eyes.”
Lin also credited past attempts by Chinese activists to speak up, citing the Tiananmen Square Massacre and several civil rights activists including Chen Guangcheng, the blind lawyer who made headlines in 2010 after he filed a lawsuit against communist officials.
While Lin wishes to advocate for human rights and freedom for everyone, it was her study of Falun Gong that first inspired her activism. After China purged the practice, many of the followers were alleged to have been jailed without trials and even tortured. Lin told us:
“Although many of them are in prison, their minds and spirits are a lot freer than other Chinese people like my father who grew up through the Cultural Revolution and never really had a chance to think that they have a voice.”
Even her own father, who still lives and owns a company in China, has threatened to cut off ties to his daughter if she doesn’t stop speaking up.
“I realize he does not want to believe that it’s right to speak up. He does not want to think that there’s a world out here that encourages and rewards freedom of expression, creativity and individualism.
“He was so afraid that he told me if I don’t stop, we’ll have to go our separate ways. I totally don’t blame him. I know what he’s going through and he’s really afraid. But this is precisely the reason why I think it’s so important to speak up.”
Today is November 20, the day that Lin will either be granted the opportunity to compete for the title of Miss World or the day that China decided to censor an activist entirely by not granting her a visa. So far, she told us today, she still hasn’t heard back.
“Miss World is just not getting back to me at this moment. They told me that they won’t disqualify me.”
How the situation plays out could also set a precedence for future events held in China involving those who speak up for human rights.
“I would think that international organizations like Miss World and the Olympic Committee should at least take a stand when things like this happen. If Miss World can set a precedence to stand up against this kind of abuse, it’s all or none. Then I don’t think China would dare to keep bullying people like this.
“Imagine what this does for future athletes of the Western world. Will they have to self-censor just to get into China for the Olympic games?”
And even if Lin gets to compete, she won’t necessarily be in the spotlight and it’s likely the pageant will be censored for Chinese audiences anyways. “Unless I make it to the top five in Miss World, I probably won’t even be on camera,” she said. Is China truly so afraid of what Lin symbolizes that they would bar her entirely from the country?
We will update the story as we hear back from Lin, but for now, she’s sticking to what she believes is the right thing to do.
“It’s not wrong, what I’m doing. It’s not wrong to speak up. I think this shows insecurity. Loads of insecurity. Who’s afraid of a 25-year old theater student?”