On May 16, Chinese-born Torontonian Anastasia Lin was crowned Miss World Canada. The University of Toronto alumnus has a degree in theatre with a minor in history and political science and has combined these passions in an acting career depicting the victims of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) injustices. She earned her title as Miss World Canada on a platform of advocating for the protection of human rights in People’s Republic of China (PRC), particularly in defense of the freedom of religion. Herself a practitioner of Falungong, which has been labeled an ‘evil cult’ by the CCP and is arguably the most repressed religion in the PRC, Lin has made it her mission to challenge the policies on religion of the Chinese government and its leader, President Xi Jinping.
Since receiving her title as Miss World Canada in Vancouver, Anastasia’s father who still lives in China, received a visit from Chinese security police. He has been asked to dissuade his daughter from making accusations and protesting the policies of the Chinese government, but to no avail. Lin remains steadfast in her pursuit of religious freedom in the country of her birth, despite the opposition she has received from its government. However, unfortunately for her, the final competition of Miss World 2015 is to be held in Sanya, on the small tropical island of Hainan which is part of the PRC. As a result of her continued activism, Ms. Lin has had her visa application rejected and will not be permitted to enter the PRC to participate in the final competition for Miss World 2015.
When she first won the Canadian qualifying competition in May and her father received a threatening visit from Chinese authorities, the Canadian government issued a supporting statement for their beauty queen. This support was given under the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, the same government that put the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), the RMB hub deal and the obtainment of two Chinese pandas for Canadian zoos ahead of the need to raise human rights issues in its relations with China. When Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada came to power in late November, they preached an unparalleled respect for human rights issues. His desire to protect the rights of LGBT Canadians, foreign refugees, Canadian aboriginals and all those negatively affected by Canadian mining everywhere led many, including myself, to believe that this would be the beginning of a new age for Canadian human rights advocacy. A logical place to start was by addressing the leaders of the biggest, most influential human rights violator in the international scene, right? Wrong.
After the world learned about Anastasia Lin’s visa rejection in late November, she wrote a piece in the Globe and Mail explaining that the new Liberal government under Justin Trudeau has not supported her bid to participate in the Miss World finale in Sanya. After winning the Canadian election with big words about defending human rights, he has cozied up to the Chinese leader, the most powerful dissentient of human rights in the world. After creating embarrassment and controversy with comments of his admiration for the Chinese dictatorship’s efficiency in 2013, he nevertheless has promised closer relations with the PRC during his tenure in office. Though Trudeau’s first meeting with his Chinese counterpart President Xi contained many promising exchanges, its only mention of human rights came behind closed doors and alluded to the possibility of disagreement between the two sides. I have to agree with Ms. Lin that, when it comes to advocating against the wrongful imprisonment, torture and even execution of Chinese citizens by their government, agreeing to disagree just won’t cut it.
Trudeau and Lin both won big Canadian competitions this year, both of them using big ideas and pretty words to convince Canadians that they were genuinely concerned about the good of others. While I admire the actions already taken by the Trudeau government to bring refugees to Canada, to interact with aboriginal communities and to take on a bigger role in protecting against climate change, its approach to Sino-Canadian relations leaves a lot to be desired. As Ms. Lin stated in her article, it is not easy for a new government to challenge the most powerful country in the world on their human rights policy, but if they don’t, they risk being seen as a government that supports the violation of basic rights like freedom of religion, speech and thought.
Anastasia Lin has paved the way for Canadian defence of human rights in China. She has used her talents and popularity to preach a message of freedom for those Chinese citizens who wish to practice their faith but cannot for fear of imprisonment. Justin Trudeau has also paved the way for many things in his first few weeks in office, but when it comes to China’s violation of human rights, he has kept silent. In the words of Edmund Burke, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Trudeau is a good man, but if he continues to kiss the shoes of President Xi Jinping without challenging his human rights record, the evil of the CCP’s policies of repression towards religious practitioners and others will triumph. Let us plead with our new Prime Minister to take action and support our beauty queen in her struggle to defend the rights of those who face repression in China.