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Chinese media rebukes Canadian beauty queen Anastasia Lin

Anastasia Lin attends a news conference in Hong Kong, China on Nov. 27, 2015. Lin, Canada's China-born Miss World contestant, was stopped in Hong Kong on Thursday and denied permission to board a flight to the beauty pageant finals in China, a move she said was punishment for speaking out against human rights abuses in the country.


She is a Chinese-born beauty queen whose willingness to speak out against her birth country's human rights record has raised Beijing's ire.

Now China has aimed the scorn of its state-controlled media at Anastasia Lin, calling her a member of a "heretic sect," accusing her of being allied with forces "hostile" to China and disparaging her involvement with "radical political issues."

Ms. Lin is Canada's 2015 Miss World contestant. On Thursday Chinese authorities formally barred her from coming to Hainan, the southern province where the Miss World Organisation is hosting its annual contest.

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She said in an interview she is being used as an example to scare others from speaking against the Chinese government, after state media called her a human rights activist who can't be allowed to spread seditious thought.

The criticism marks China's sharpest rebuke of Ms. Lin, amid a broader campaign against Western values and a rising willingness by Beijing to use its rising global stature to impose its views on others.

Ms. Lin, a practitioner of Falun Gong, "has to pay a cost for being tangled with hostile forces against China," the nationalistic Global Times wrote in an editorial published in both Chinese and English, the latter reprinted on the website of the People's Daily, one of China's most important state media outlets.

The column connects Beijing's refusal to give entry to Ms. Lin with her outspoken criticism of Chinese human-rights abuses — which has included testifying at a U.S. Congressional hearing about Chinese religious persecution.

Ms. Lin "needs to learn to be responsible for her words and deeds, and for the possible consequences of the path chosen based on her own values," says the column, written by Shan Renping, believed to be a pen name used by Global Times editor Hu Xijin.

He adds a warning to others around the world: "All performers should avoid being involved in radical political issues in the globalized times."

A separate news report in the newspaper cites Wu Qingbao, former deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice, saying Ms. Lin belonged to a heretic sect. Ms. Lin, the paper reported, "is objectively likely to have some of the sect's heretic thoughts and an unhealthy western view of spreading values in China. If she doesn't move to correct what she has done, rejecting her entry is the correct decision."

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China's rejection of Ms. Lin extended to her image. Online, the People's Daily published the column alongside a photo of Riza Santos, the Calgarian of Spanish, Filipino and Chinese descent who was named Miss World Canada in 2011.

An official with the Chinese embassy in Canada earlier told The Globe and Mail that China views her as "persona non grata."

In an interview Monday morning, Ms. Lin called the Chinese media backlash a warning "for everybody who wants to speak their mind — the scholars, journalists, kids in the younger generation who are watching this."

China, she said, wants "to create this ring of fear, this ring of intimidation to stop people from speaking up the truth, and they want to use me as an example."

Chinese authorities have opposed Falun Gong since 1999, when some 10,000 believers gathered to protest outside zhongnanhai, Beijing's elite leadership compound. But they have also more recently sought to expunge "western values" from universities and political thought, and grown more adversarial in fighting those who call out Beijing's human-rights failings.

In September, Chinese authorities cancelled mainland appearances by Bon Jovi after discovering photos of the rocker playing against a backdrop of the Dalai Lama five years ago. Maroon 5 also had concerts cancelled for tweeting birthday wishes to the Dalai Lama in July.

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On Sunday, the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China said it is "deeply concerned" after local media attacked a French reporter by name and allowed death threats to appear in online comments. In the wake of the Paris attacks, the reporter had argued that Beijing has refused to acknowledge its own responsibility in creating tensions with its Muslim Uighur minority through discriminatory policies — that, among other things, place under suspicion any young person who quits smoking or doesn't drink — in its western Xinjiang region.

China has increasingly less to fear from such hostility, since many Western nations have dampened human-rights criticism in service of pursuing trade. In September, for example, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne became the first British minister to visit Xinjiang, an area he said holds "enormous potential in the years ahead."

Ms. Lin, too, has spoken out about persecution of Uighurs. Chinese authorities have threatened her father, who still lives in mainland China and who she recently reached by telephone for the first time since November. He urged her to return to Canada and focus on her artistic career.

"He sounds like he's scared," Ms. Lin said. "Nowadays people blame the ones that speak up instead of the ones that persecute."

But, she warned, such a mentality has consequences — perhaps even for Canada as athletes prepare for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.

"Do we have to start to self-censor from now on to 2022, just for our athletes to get into China?" she said.

Over the weekend, Ms. Lin's appearance in local media elicited questions over whether China, as a host to growing numbers of international events, should be more welcoming.

"A political power that looks this mighty is afraid of a beauty contestant? I must be drunk," wrote one person.

Others sided with Chinese authorities. "She deserved it!" one wrote. Added another: "She is Falun Gong. What if she self-immolates at the competition? Better not to let her come and harm others."

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