Anastasia Lin represented Canada in the 2016 Miss World competition in Washington, D.C, but her goal wasn't to snag a tiara. Rather than vague mentions of wanting "world peace," Lin had a very specific dream in mind. She used her platform as a beauty queen contestant to bring attention to reports of China's abuses of practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that centers around meditation and compassion.
"My one goal was not the tiara,” the Chinese-Canadian actress told The Star. “I just wanted to be on Chinese television... If they can see me on stage they will know [I have not given up], so neither should they.”
Lin didn't win the crown — that went to the Puerto Rican contestant — but she's been dominating headlines ever since with her message. She drew attention to claims that the Chinese government is harvesting organs of prisoners who practice Falun Gong.
“I’m talking about organs being taken from prisoners of conscience, meaning citizens who have not done anything wrong but to speak their mind and believe what they believe in," Lin told the Associated Press. "It’s like innocent citizens being killed for their organs and their body parts sold for profits. It’s happening and people need to pay attention to it."
Lin's had a difficult time getting her message across, though. The Chinese government labelled Lin a persona non grata, prohibiting her from entering the country last year to compete in last year's Miss World competition. But Lin is trying to get her message across on multiple platforms. She also stars in a controversial new film, The Bleeding Edge, playing a young mother and Falun Gong practitioner who endures horrific abuses at a Chinese labour camp.
While the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa reportedly dismisses Lin's claims of human rights abuses as "sheer fabrication," many others back her up. An investigative report by human rights lawyer David Matas, journalist Ethan Gutmann and former Canadian lawmaker David Kilgour claims that China performs an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 organ transplants each year, with only 10,000 of those accounted for in official records. They report that the tens of thousands of organs that aren't officially on the books come from the bodies of prisoners.
So now that Lin's offstage, what should Canadians moved by her message do? You can take action to support practitioners of Falun Gong. Start by signing a petition by Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting "calling for immediate action to end the unethical practice of forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China."
And as for Lin now that the pageant's over? She told NBC News she's leaving her pageant dreams behind for now to continue working as an actress and human rights ambassador: "We have a lot of power. So we don't need to be afraid," she said. "We have way more leverage than we think we do."
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