Recent events surrounding Chinese Canadian beauty queen and human rights activist Anastasia Lin‘s participation in this year’s Miss World pageant illustrate the negative effects of China’s growing global influence. Nominated twice to represent Canada in the pageant, Lin was banned from participating in the 2015 contest held in China; and has now been barred from speaking on human rights at this year’s contest in the United States (See Boston Globe, Epoch Times, New York Magazine, New York Times, Toronto Star, Washington Post).
A native of mainland China who immigrated to Canada as a teenager, Ms. Lin has been outspoken in her criticism of China’s atrocious human rights record. As a practitioner of the Falun Gong spiritual practice banned in China, she has dedicated herself particularly to fighting religious persecution in China. China’s efforts to silence her have included threats by Chinese authorities against her father in China. In 2015, Lin was denied entry to China to participate in the contest held in Sanya on Hainan Island.
“The Chinese government has barred me from the competition for political reasons,” said Lin when she was banned from the 2015 contest, “They are trying to punish me for my beliefs and prevent me from speaking out about human rights issues…. The slogan of the Miss World competition is ‘Beauty with a purpose.’ My purpose is to advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves—those who suffer in prisons and labour camps, or whose voices have been stifled by repression and censorship.”
This year’s contest was held in Washington D.C., where free speech is guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. Under Chinese corporate sponsorship, however, the pageant’s U.S. organizers and the London-based Miss World Organization have now become enforcers of Chinese censorship.
Lin has been barred from speaking with the media, and even a U.S. State Department official was refused access to Lin unless “accompanied by a pageant employee, who insisted on attending the meeting.” A friend of Ms. Lin’s reported: “They have specifically told her not to talk about human rights during the pageant, even though that is her official platform…. She is very frustrated.”
Boston Globe writer Jeff Jacoby describes the scene in a Washington DC hotel lobby, as pageant officials behaved exactly like Chinese government thugs when he tried to interview Lin: “A Miss World employee saw us talking, and demanded an explanation…. The employee instantly called in reinforcements. Soon there were three officials. Two of them hustled Lin from the lobby, angrily accusing her of breaching the rules and causing trouble. The third blocked me from talking to Lin, and assured me that my interview would be scheduled the next day. It wasn’t, of course.”
The increasingly “long shadow of Chinese censorship” has been noted for several years. China’s efforts at silencing its critics around the world have included harassment of exiled Chinese dissidents, pressure on international film and literary festivals to bar works by Chinese dissidents, economic pressure on international news media to produce more “positive” China coverage, and cyber-attacks on news and human rights websites. Now even the Hollywood movie industry appears ready to submit to Chinese censorship for access to the Chinese market.
“We all live under threat from the Chinese regime,” Lin wrote in 2015, “Too easily we accept this kind of coercion as the social norm, blaming those who speak out rather than those who wield the batons…. Leaving China doesn’t make one free, not when friends and family there become hostages. Freedom comes when we stop accepting tyranny and challenge those who would preserve it.”