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Anastasia Lin is a sweet, determined, intelligent beauty. Since leaving China at age 13 when she became a Canadian, she devotes herself to bringing the freedom she gained in Canada to her native country.
Anastasia Lin moved to Canada at age 13 when her mother decided to emigrate the family from China for a better education and greater opportunities. Always inquisitive, Lin left China wondering “Why is North America so civilized and its people so free compared to those in China?” She found it hard to understand why the Communist Party, China’s sole political party since 1949, taught its people that most other nations outside of China are anti-China.
Lin finally understood after she arrived here and made friends, she explained in an interview with Taste of Life. “It is not ‘China’ other nations look down on but the repression of unalienable rights of human beings.” Visiting Vancouver in late July to host a luxury fair that featured Dior, Lugaro, and Rolls Royce, among other luxury brands, Lin was elegant and composed in a red BCBG floor-length dress, her pageant banner over one shoulder. On the road, you might see her in her favorite brands Marciano and Club Monaco, carrying one of her favourite designer purses.
But her thoughtful conversation is equally impressive. Lin educated herself about contaminated food and medicine that reach Canada from China and how civil rights diminish when Canadian firms give in to communist Chinese trade pressures. She pointed out that Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas and former Canadian Member of Parliament David Kilgour found in a 2006 investigation that the Chinese state is systematically arresting, torturing, and in some cases harvesting internal organs from a pool of 100 million existing Falun Gong practitioners for profit. Falun Gong is an ancient self-cultivation way that adheres to truthfulness, compassion and tolerance. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s declaration “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Lin spoke out publicly, gathered petitions, and rallied at human rights assemblies while still in high school.
Although her parents asked her to focus only on school and job opportunities, Lin felt “if I followed my destiny, the best opportunities would appear.” In fact, she met Miss World Canada 2003, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, at a human rights gathering. “She was speaking there. … I had a short exchange with her, and she was really inspirational,” Lin remembers. The encounter left Lin with the dream to one day promote Canadian values through the pageant.
A Voice for the Voiceless
In the years leading up to the pageant, Lin played leading roles in several Toronto-based films which depict persecution in China. “Beyond Destiny” won the Golden Palm Award at the Mexico International Film Festival and the Award of Merit at the Indie Fest in California. While acting, Lin observes, every muscle of an actor needs to be in the role; otherwise you cannot move the audience. But when you do, the audience resonates with you— a miraculous feeling.
Her heartfelt artistry caught the attention of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which called on her to help draft the framework of Canada’s new Office of Religious Freedom. She walked in the room and realized she was the youngest person there by 30 years.
Contributing ideas alongside established community leaders tipped Lin over the edge from thinking about the Miss World Canada pageant to doing it. Even though it was her first beauty pageant, she garnered first runner-up in International Costume, People’s Choice, and Talent, and won “Beauty with a Purpose” for her video explaining her cause.
In that video, Lin shared: “Being born in a repressive country, I’ve learned the freedom we enjoy here in Canada is precious, and I’ve always felt an obligation to help those who aren’t as fortunate as I am to live in a free society. Miss World Canada has a humanitarian tradition to speak out for the voiceless.” Lin, now a Canadian citizen, fears, “if no one stops the abuses in China today, they will only spread.”
The Miss World Canada pageant culminated in Vancouver this May. In the top three in every preliminary category of the pageant, Lin “had more chances [to talk on stage] than anybody else,” chances she used to encourage freedom for all. “After the 16 questions, 16 girls answered their questions about their platforms … after mine, the audience stood up and they really cheered. … People I didn’t know, complete strangers, they started to really cheer for this Anastasia that they didn’t know, but they knew she was putting her heart out there to speak up,” Lin marvels. Pageant audience members commented on the surprising amount of attention the press and the crowd gave Lin during and after the event.
Lin, inspired, touched and encouraged by those who share her dream, is driven to continue. Lin aspires to star in more films and help with policy development in Ottawa to allow more people in the world to have the freedom to choose what they believe in.
Photography by Evan Ning