The Canadian government is remaining silent about Anastasia Lin, this country's Miss World contestant who may not be able to participate at this month's pageant in China on account of her political views.
A 25-year-old University of Toronto graduate, actress and concert pianist, Ms. Lin is also a practitioner of Falun Gong, the spiritual sect that Beijing treats as a criminal cult. The cutoff date for entry to the event is Nov. 20, but Ms. Lin, who was born and raised for a time in Hunan province, first requires permission from the country's foreign ministry before participating.
Ms. Lin said that her outspoken views on the topic of human-rights abuses in China have probably jeopardized her chances of receiving a visa. As recently as July, she gave testimony before a U.S. congressional committee on the topic.
Other contestants, she says, have already received their invitations to the contest, which begins later this month in Sanya, a seaside resort in Hainan.
In an e-mailed statement, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, François Lasalle, said that the ministry can't comment on China's visa decisions, adding that the promotion of human rights remains a priority in its relationship with China.
The Globe and Mail also queried the office of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who is in China on a trade mission, about raising Ms. Lin's situation with her political counterparts.
"As you know, this issue falls under the purview of the federal government and as such we wouldn't comment on a specific individual," wrote press secretary Jennifer Beaudry, adding that the Premier is committed to raising human rights issues while abroad.
Ms. Lin said that her entry to China is not an administrative matter, but an issue representing universal values. "This is a moment when we show those who are trying to silence us who we are," she said in an interview Tuesday. "If everyone involved took a stance on this issue, I don't think China would dare to bully."
The previous federal government commended Ms. Lin for her efforts to raise awareness regarding rights. It also voiced concerns about allegations that the Chinese government has harassed Ms. Lin's family in China as a result of what she has said in Canada.
Some would say that the issue of Ms. Lin's admission isn't just about a beauty pageant, but also reflects a wider timidity with the Asian superpower.
"China routinely screens out foreign visitors who say things that it doesn't want to hear," wrote David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, in an e-mail. "It is sufficiently big and influential that this tends to be overlooked by an international community that prizes 'engagement' with China over fairness."
The Chinese embassy in Ottawa did not respond to an e-mailed query about Ms. Lin, but when reached earlier this year about issuing her a visa, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing did not sound too welcoming.
"Fa Lun Gong is [a] cult organization which was banned by the Chinese government according to the law," wrote spokesman Lei Hong last June. "Chinese government banning Fa Lun Gong organization is for protecting the citizens' basic human rights and freedom and guard[ing] the constitution and the law."
With days to go before Ms. Lin finds out if she is still eligible to participate, there remain contradictions, even within the Miss World universe.
When asked about Ms. Lin's status earlier this week, the legal associate at the group's London head office, Jai Gillman-Smith, wrote, "I am at a loss to understand why you should be asking this question." Ms. Gillman-Smith then pointed The Globe to its website, where Ms. Lin is still listed as a contestant.
Miss World Canada's chief executive officer, Ike Lalji, however, acknowledged the visa wrinkle, saying that he will do his best to expedite the process through China's consulate in Vancouver if Ms. Lin is approved for travel.
In the meantime, Mr. Lalji expressed uncertainty. "All the girls in the pageant are supporting some kind of cause: Human trafficking or bullying," he said. "But her cause is directly related to China, so I don't know how it will react."
With a report from Nathan VanderKlippe in Beijing