Canada's newly crowned Miss World candidate says her family in China is being threatened for her outspokenness on religious freedom and her former country's human-rights violations.
Anastasia Lin, a 25-year-old Torontonian, said that several days after her May 16 victory in Vancouver, she started receiving harrowing text messages from her father, explaining he had been visited by security forces and telling her she would lose his support, if she continued speaking out.
"He said that the security services threatened him with turning my family into something from the Cultural Revolution," she said, alluding to the era when the Communists would encourage family members to denounce each other.
Ms. Lin said when she asked her father whether he had been threatened, he instructed her never to ask him about it again and pleaded with her to allow them a way to survive in China. In other words, stop talking about politics. As she explained to him, however, she didn't see how she could avoid it. "It's precisely because of the values I'm upholding that has moved the judges."
Her plight is one of many in which Canadian citizens of Chinese origin say their families in China are being harassed for political activities in their new country. Tibetan and Uyghur groups have made similar claims and they have stressed there is almost no recourse to address the bilateral problem.
Ms. Lin's predicament adds a wrinkle to the typically placid Miss World contest: The final pageant will be held in Sanya, China, the sixth time the beach city has hosted the competition. "Stay tuned and see if they give me the visa," Ms. Lin said.
The Chinese embassy in Ottawa did not respond for comment.
A practitioner of Falun Gong – the religious discipline that China regards as a political movement and a menace – Ms. Lin is a University of Toronto theatre major who has appeared in several films that underscore rights abuses in China, particularly against Falun Gong.
Ms. Lin, who prevailed over 52 other contestants, was born in China's Hunan province and lived there for 13 years before moving to Canada with her mother. Her parents are divorced, and her father has a new family in China.
When asked whether she had reached out to the authorities about the threats, she said there was no one to complain to. "You can't contact the Chinese police because they're the problem. I was thinking of calling the Canadian government, but can they really pressure China not to harass people?"
Joel Chipkar, a leader in Toronto's Falun Gong community, said that thousands of fellow practitioners have complained about similar circumstances and pointed to Canada's closed-door discussions on human rights with China as the culprit. "If Canada openly called for China to stop harassing its citizens and their families, China would start respecting Canada's borders a little more."
To Mr. Chipkar, the purported vindictiveness against Ms. Lin's family shows insecurity, not strength. "This is not a big dissident group standing up and attacking the Chinese government. This is a girl who has been crowned Miss World Canada."