Anastasia Lin just wanted her father to see her face.
Prevented from taking part in Miss World 2015 when China refused to allow her to enter the country, where the final was being held, she tried again this past December.
The Canadian was under no illusions about coming home with the 2016 crown. Getting on stage would be enough: the Miss World final is broadcast around the globe, including in her native China, where her father has been harassed and prevented from leaving.
In the end she appeared on screen for all of six seconds, during her introduction. For the rest of the show she was tucked away at the back of the crowd of contestants, or at the corners of the stage.
“It was really too naive to think that my father could see me,” Lin said.
If she is slightly bitter, it’s with good reason. Her sliver of screen time was bought with months of practice and rehearsal, and, most painfully for an outspoken human rights activist, her silence.
During the competition, Lin said she was placed under a communication blackout and forbidden from speaking to journalists, part of what analysts say is a pattern of western companies cooperating with China to silence critics overseas.
Miss World chairwoman Julia Morley said the organization did “our best to assist Miss Lin and have done absolutely nothing to prevent her doing everything she wanted to do.”
Good little Communist
Lin, 26, was born in China’s Hunan province. As a child, she wore the iconic red scarf of the Young Pioneers and vowed to “struggle for the cause of Communism.”
One of her duties in the state-run youth organization was to corral other children to watch propaganda broadcasts, which at the time were intently focused against Falun Gong.
The spiritual movement, which has roots in the ancient Chinese meditative martial art qigong, exploded in popularity in the 1990s, growing to an estimated 30 million members by the end of the decade, according to the US State Department.
In 1999, after upwards of 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners staged a peaceful demonstration in Beijing – the largest mass protest the Chinese capital had seen since the Tiananmen Square massacre a decade before – the movement was banned and a brutal crackdown launched, with tens of thousands of people arrested.