Would-be Miss World beauty contestant and rights activist Anastasia Lin has been prevented from boarding a flight to China to take part in the final round of the competition, she told RFA on Friday.
Lin, currently Miss Canada, has apparently been denied a visa by the ruling Chinese Communist Party after she spoke out publicly about the
persecution of fellow members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, which Beijing in 1999 designated an "evil cult" in a campaign that entailed mass incarcertion and widespread torture allegations.
Lin, who was born in China but is now a Canadian citizen, had qualified to attend the finals of the 65th Miss World competition, which China is hosting this year.
Lin, 25, said she is sure that she is being barred from attending the Dec. 19 event in the tropical resort of Sanya because of her human rights activism.
Despite not receiving an official invitation letter from the Chinese government, nor a visa to enter the country, Lin decided to try traveling to Sanya. She was refused permission to board the last leg of her flight in Hong Kong, which has maintained a separate immigration border since its return to Chinese rule in 1997.
"I have taken part in various movie projects that have to do with human rights," Lin told RFA. "The first movie was about tofu buildings in Sichuan [during the devastating 2008 earthquake] where so many children lost their lives."
"After that, I was in one that dealt with religious persecution, including that of [the banned spiritual movement,] the Falun Gong and underground churches," she said.
"There was another on the situation of Tibetans."
'Stand up and speak out'
Lin said she had hoped to open the eyes of people inside China during the final, which is being broadcast on state-run CCTV.
"I think that if the Chinese people got the chance to see somebody so outspoken on the TV, they might be able to feel more hopeful and feel encouraged to stand up and speak out for themselves," Lin said.
Lin, who recently graduated as a theater major, said she wouldn't give up her activism, however.
"I won't give up, because if I drew back now, I think a lot of people would think 'well, what about us?'" she said. "They might feel that there wasn't any hope if even somebody as outspoken as myself [gave up]."
Lin, who is a Falun Gong practitioner, testified in July at a U.S. congressional hearing on religious persecution in China.
She told the Congressional Commission on China (CECC) she "wanted to speak for those in China that are beaten, burned and electrocuted for holding to their beliefs - people in prison who eat rotten food with blistered fingers because they dare have convictions."
She appears to enjoy considerable support among young people in Hong Kong, which saw 79 days of a mass pro-democracy movement occupy the city's streets last year.
"I think that the Chinese government is very narrow-minded, [to bar her] just because she spoke out for the human rights of Chinese people," a media student surnamed Hui at the Chinese University of Hong Kong told RFA on Friday.
"Such a big country can't cope with a 25-year-old young woman who is going to take part in a beauty pageant?"
"I think that the Chinese government's suppression of free speech is getting worse and worse," Hui said.
And a Hong Kong resident surnamed Tseung agreed. "This is inappropriate, but it is pretty normal for the Chinese government," she said.
"Anyone who has anything to do with the Falun Gong isn't allowed to leave the country, which violates their human rights."
Tseung added: "China is such a huge country, and yet they can't cope with a young woman attending a beauty pageant."
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Ka Pa and Dai Weisen for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie