Anastasia Lin had no delusions about bagging the Miss World 2016 title. The woman who had been crowned Miss World Canada 2015, had not been allowed to participate in Miss World 2015 because the final was being held in China, a country that refused her a visa.
But Lin had hoped to stand on stage this time and be seen by her father, a resident of China who has been hounded and harassed by the totalitarian regime for his outspoken views.
Lin was born in China, and lived there until she was 13. As a child, she had been assigned the task of shepherding children to watch propaganda movies, many of them focused against the spiritual movement, Falun Gong. When she moved to Canada, she realized that what she had been fed since childhood was baseless propaganda. The ties between the father and daughter were cut off when Lin was advised to not speak to her father for his own safety. She became an outspoken advocate for people wronged by the state in China. She starred in a sensitive movie about shoddily built schools that collapsed in 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
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In 2015, after her visa was rejected by China, she flew to Hong Kong and decided to apply from there. She was declared a persona non grata and denied entry.
In 2016, she decided to participate again and this time, toe the line. For months before the final, Lin had been silencing her own self. She had gone low-profile and did not speak to journalists. When she received requests from the press for interviews, she forwarded them to the officials. Although denied initially, she was granted permission to talk to the reporters later.
Throughout, Lin was treated like a criminal. When she was spotted chatting with a reporter, she was severely rebuked for not sticking to the guidelines. These claims have been denied by Miss World chairwoman Julia Morley.
Her friend Jacob Wallenberg said Lin was specifically warned by pageant employees that she would be thrown out of the competition if she spoke to reporters or mentioned human rights during the pageant.
"She is very frustrated," he said.
Miss World organization stopping individuals from criticizing China is not entirely implausible. Many of the Western billion-dollar giants are supported by China, and cannot afford to lose all the funds the country dishes out.
In the end, Lin did appear on screen. What would have been a important and possibly healing moment for the two of them never really came. Lin was on stage for all of seconds, after which she was banished to the back.
"It was really too naive to think that my father could see me," Lin said.
She may be dismayed but she is not broken. Her resolve remains strong.
“It is important for Chinese to express what they wish,” she said. “We should encourage the Chinese people to speak up for themselves.” She called on human-rights lawyers “to stand against tyranny, to let them see the truth.”
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Banner and thumbnail credit: Creative Commons, Lisa Fan