Hong Kong (AFP) - A Canadian beauty queen lashed out at Beijing on Friday, saying she was barred from boarding a flight from Hong Kong to China to compete in a pageant because of her human rights activism.
Chinese-born Anastasia Lin, a 25-year-old actress crowned Miss World Canada in May, said that China was blocking her from travelling to the seaside resort city of Sanya for the Miss World contest.
Lin, who told AFP late Thursday that Chinese authorities were suppressing people who "dare to speak their minds", was speaking from Hong Kong's international airport where she was blocked from taking a flight bound for mainland China.
"I believe the Chinese government is angry at me because my work brings attention to these (human rights) issues," Lin said at a press conference on Friday morning.
"I knew there was a big risk I could be barred but I didn't want to give in, didn't want to give up, unless I had exhausted all my options," she said, adding that she officially remained a contestant in the pageant even if she could not travel to the venue.
The actress has appeared in films depicting sensitive issues in China ranging from corruption to suppression of religion.
She called on the media to question why China would be concerned about a beauty queen.
"Ask them whether they would also bar Olympic athletes from participating in the winter Olympic Games just because they have different views that the Communist Party doesn't agree with," she said.
Beijing in July won the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. It hosted the Summer Games in 2008 and will be the only city to have held both events.
The beauty queen has actively denounced human rights abuses in China, both on film and in public comments, notably its persecution of practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual group banned in mainland China.
The Buddhist-inspired group was outlawed in 1999 and branded an "evil cult" by Chinese authorities.
Herself a practitioner of Falun Gong -- which emerged in the 1990s combining Taoist philosophy, meditation and qigong exercises -- Lin testified in July at a US congressional hearing on religious persecution in China.
Lin told US lawmakers she "wanted to speak for those in China that are beaten, burned and electrocuted for holding to their beliefs -- people in prison who eat rotten food with blistered fingers because they dare have convictions."
Lin had previously claimed Chinese security agents coerced her father, who lives in China, into pressuring her to abandon her human rights advocacy.
"When I was crowned Miss World Canada, my father was so proud of me," she said then.
"He received hundreds of congratulatory messages. But within a couple days, my father's tone changed. He told me nervously that I must stop my advocacy for human rights in China, or else he would have no choice but to sever contact with me."