Some inspiring stories in this world have no addendum. These unparalleled tales are all deeply rooted in conviction, vision, and a sense of belief that uplifts and inspires humanity with new courage. Until this amazing real-life story unfolded, beauty queens were about pageants, ramps, and humanitarianism. Never before was it about a young Miss World challenging an authoritarian regime and becoming the voice of millions.
In this exclusive interview, NTD India talks with Anastasia Lin—a Chinese-Canadian actress, Miss World Canada 2015, and above all an outspoken advocate for freedom of conscience—about her journey till date and her special heart for India.
NTD India: You won Miss World Canada 2015 but couldn’t participate that year in the Miss World pageant held in China. Per major global media reports, it happened due to your outspokenness on various human rights violations happening in China. It is hard to comprehend what issue could be so intimidating that would make the communist regime, the world’s second-largest economy, feel so challenged from a beauty queen. Can you throw some light on this issue?
Anastasia Lin: I think that they overreacted. They could have chosen a much different strategy and that probably would have got them a better name on this incident. But they decided to use their usual, which is to block people out. They have been doing this since a long ago, to activists, to journalists. People who dare to speak up about them are usually denied access to China, its resources, and even its market. It’s probably because I have spoken and testified in different governments about the persecution of belief in China—so that’s probably why in my case.
NTD India: You have been very vocal at various global human rights forums about the live organ harvesting from the prisoners of conscience in China. You have been behind the scenes of the two major recent resolutions passed by the U.S. and the U.K. parliaments. Where is this matter heading?
Anastasia Lin: It is often assumed that the international community doesn’t have enough leverage to get China to change anything, but that’s not true. China’s policy actually reacts to the outside world.
For example, in recent years the Chinese government admitted that they are using criminals’, executed prisoners’ organs for transplant. They said they are going to stop, but in the past they have never admitted that they are using the organs of prisoners. They always say that they are from anonymous sources. So we got them to admit to this fact. In 2016 and 2017, they started this “national organ donation system program.” This has never been done in the past in China. Though it might not be a “real program,” it might just be to show to the outside world: “Oh, we are making progress. We are going to reform.”
There is no evidence shown that their supply chain involving the hospital and the prison has been broken, and there is no law to ban that yet, but at least they are trying to make themselves look better. The Chinese government do care what the outside world thinks about them, doesn’t matter how powerful and indestructible they look. They are very fragile inside.
The Chinese transplant society is desperate to get that recognition from the outside world. We can use this as a leverage to get them to reform, but it is up to us to use it or not.
NTD India: “I had to choose between silence and my hope for a better China.” You further said at the Oslo Freedom Forum that silence helps no one. But your vocalness has threatened you and your family in China so many times. What keeps you bold and going?
Anastasia Lin: During any part of the journey, I could have given up. Many decision were hard—but they were my decisions. I should have just taken one day at a time, one campaign at a time, and one cause at a time. I went to the 2016 Miss World, that was the second time I participated. I was going to talk about organ harvesting as my platform. I honestly thought that it was going to be the last time I’m going to advocate for human rights. It was really hard, and the progress is not immediate. The only satisfaction I got is sometimes when I see people resonate or when, occasionally and rarely, victims do come up to you and say thank you.
I think being courageous, it’s not a conscious decision—you don’t feel courage, you feel the power, a sense of safety. It is that when I make a decision, I have to accept that the outcome would be the best possible outcome—otherwise I can’t go forward. Courage comes to me when it is most unexpected, when I’m not thinking about myself, and when I can look out to the world and feel that the whole universe is full of abundance. It’s not here to punish me; it’s here, perhaps, to guide me to explore what it has created, including me.
NTD India: The Wall Street Journal’s article by David Feith describes you as a beauty queen that Donald Trump should meet. Keeping in mind that you have been to India once, we would like to know are there any specific dignitaries whom you would like to meet and what would you like to say to them?
Anastasia Lin: I would really like to meet Aamir Khan. I watched the 3 idiots, it’s so genuine and real, and he’s so sincere. It’s a comedy, and I had never watched a movie by him before. He’s a veteran artist, and I’m so moved by his art. I see that he worked a lot on his characters. I really like him.
NTD India: You often quote “Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance” in your various talks. How do you balance your life as a model, an actor, and a human rights activist while living by these values?
Anastasia Lin: Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance come from Chinese traditional teaching. If we look at the Chinese traditional culture—which almost was destroyed by the Chinese Communist Party—Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism are the three big teaching schools. Buddhism believes in compassion, Taoist believe in truthfulness, and tolerance is believed by Confucianism. “Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance” summarise whole of Chinese traditional culture. That’s probably one of the reasons why Chinese people in the 1990s really grabbed into a practice that teaches these tenets and encourages people to live by their principles and that’s why it got so popular, so fast.
I like to talk about these principles because it embodies so much Chinese traditional culture. I feel for contemporary, busy modern world, this ancient wisdom is very useful.
NTD India: You have appeared in over 20 films and television productions, and most prominently played the role of lead actress in several movies based in the themes of human rights abuses in China. Which one of your roles is your personal favorite and why?
Anastasia Lin: I don’t have a favorite yet. A lot of these roles involved so much of me talking to the victims to live their experiences—and it’s really hard because what they have lived through is horrifying. There are still millions of these people in China who are still living through that, and the darkness they described stuck with me. I feel like after portraying these roles, part of me was ever trapped with them in that jail cell, in those prisons, and that’s a very heavy feeling.
So, I can’t say I have a favorite because none of them really make me feel light hearted. It makes me feel the human courage in a way—what human determination can possibly do, disregarding the outside circumstances, their inside, their heart, is tremendously strong.
And I know this person who unfortunately passed away. He was locked up in Masanjia Labour Camp, which is the most notorious labor camp (in China), yet managed to send out SOS letter through the products he was forced to make. Now there’s a new documentary about his story called Letters from Masanjia. I never spoke to him, but when they were producing the documentary, I saw some of the interview from him.
He endured the kind of physical torture that other people usually can’t tolerate for 10 minutes, he tolerated it for a year. I think he could endure so much because of his faith in life; his courage didn’t need to do anything to conquer the outside world.
To dive myself into the level of emotional depth is hard—but it reaches somewhere deeper. They say that only with pain one grows; I don’t believe that fully, because happiness can bring so much peace and growth too.
NTD India: What are your upcoming projects? Do you have plans to do the mainstream films? Recommend one of your films for Indians.
Anastasia Lin: My upcoming project is about a Canadian citizen who’s locked up in China for a year and a half now. She’s a Canadian woman, she was locked up for practicing Falun Gong. And the Canadian government is not doing anything. I have been trying to advocate for her case. I went to United Nations Human Rights Council to advocate for her, to call the Chinese government out. I started a petition where 38,000 people signed. Nothing changed. She’s still locked in there and endured torture as well, and this is just not right.
So I want to start a “Lotus Challenge.” It’s basically putting yourself in a double lotus position, take a video of yourself, challenge three of your friends and upload it. And if you have two minutes more time, sign my petition on change.org called Let’s Bring Sun Qian Home. If everyone can just chip in and their friends and family can join, soon we’ll have like a million signatures—hopefully we’ll be able to call the head of states and diplomats to actually get them to do something, to do their part, to get this Canadian girl out of jail.
But if we don’t and we left her there, we all are not safe, because today the Chinese government has locked up a Canadian, tomorrow it may lock an Indian, it could be a U.S. citizen as well. They may continue to keeping them in there without any fair trial. That’s why I believe it’s better to use our liberty to speak up to help out while we still have it.
NTD India: India has its rich heritage and grand history. What do you like about India the most?
Anastasia Lin: I’m fascinated by the book Mahabharata—I really want to read through it. I love epics like this. They contain so much wisdom. I really want to read it. I watched the TV series. I’m also aware that Amir Khan’s upcoming Bollywood project is Mahabharata. I’m so looking forward to it. Besides that, Buddha Shakyamuni (Gautama Siddhartha) is from India.
NTD India: Is there any special message for the Indian readers that you would like to convey via NTD India?
Anastasia Lin: I have a lot more to learn about India, but an impression I had was that people are so smart, partly because of the history of culture—it’s so precious. It’s one of the most ancient one that’s not destroyed, it’s a treasure. Unlike the Chinese people—we lost our traditional culture, part of it. So yes, learn at our expense and treasure what you have.