Despite claims that her father is being harassed in China over her association with the spiritual faith, Miss World Canada 2015 refuses to renounce it and her humanitarian work: ‘I feel my presence in that country would give people hope’
Under different circumstances, Anastasia Lin would be a shoo-in for Miss World. A vocal human rights activist with prominent cheekbones, the Canadian candidate for the crown is also an accomplished piano player, a Chinese calligrapher, and an actress with more than 20 credits in film and television.
But this year’s contest takes place in Lin’s native China, which poses a threat for the finalist and her family as Lin practises the spiritual faith of Falun Gong.
Tens of millions in China practice Falun Gong, which combines moral philosophy, meditation and qigong exercises, and emerged out of ideas prevalent in alternative Chinese medicine.
Falun Gong believers have been detained and killed in Chinese labour camps in their thousands, according to activists. The religion was branded an “evil cult” and outlawed in 1999, following a silent demonstration by thousands of Falun Gong practitioners outside Communist party headquarters, who were protesting attacks on its members. Since then, nearly 4,000 practitioners of Falun Gong have reportedly died as a result of detention in camps, though human rights researchers believe the number to be much higher.
Lin, an outspoken advocate on human rights and religious persecution, had refrained from publicly disclosing her faith. But having gained a wider platform thanks to winning the Canadian crown, Lin revealed her faith practice to the Guardian, hoping it would help stop the demonization of the Falun Gong faith and give voice to other Chinese people who are persecuted for their beliefs.
“If I don’t, the oppression will never stop,” Lin said.
Though she has kept her faith out of the public eye, she has been anoutspoken advocate for other minority religious groups persecuted in China, such as Muslim Uighurs, Tibetan Buddhists and Christians.
But it is for her outspoken advocacy work that she says the Chinese ministry of state security is trying to silence her by intimidating her father.
Lin has set foot in China only once since moving to Canada in 2003, but she says her father, who still lives in Hunan province, has been visited by security agents at least once. According to Lin, he is not affiliated with Falun Gong or any religious group.
Just a few days after winning the Miss World Canada crown on 16 May, Lin began receiving text messages from her father asking her to stop her advocacy work. She had highlighted her human rights work in a video and speech at the pageant.
“Do you know the security forces actually came to see me,” Lin said, recounting a text from her father. She said he warned her that if she continued to do her human rights work, she would risked turning her family against each other. “When I asked him more details, he just pleaded that I allow him to live peacefully by not bringing up rights abuses in China again.”
Since then, his business has suffered. “Now people are too scared to be associated with him,” said Lin, who has featured in Canadian films critical of the Chinese regime since the age of 18.
She doesn’t know if agents have visited him again as she said he refuses to talk about it during their brief phone calls. “Nowadays, he always mentions how great the Chinese president is,” she adds. “I think he believes that his phone is being tapped.”
Lin’s case is a classic example of how Xi Jinping’s regime tries to bring Chinese expatriates to heel through the harassment of loved ones left behind, explains Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “Chinese activists’ parents and siblings are sometimes prosecuted on false allegations while others simply disappear. It amounts to psychological torture,” Richardson said.
But Lin continued her activist work, by writing a Washington Post op-ed in June and by testifying to the US Congress in July about religious persecution in China.
By coming out now as a practitioner of Falun Gong, Lin has become its highest-profile follower in the western hemisphere.
“It’s not an organised religion,” she said. “The teachings – established by qigong master Li Hongzi in 1992 – are about finding our authentic self. And this is what I’m trying to do by speaking up. If I don’t, the oppression will never stop.”
Lin’s experience comes amid harsher treatments of religious minorities and human rights lawyers, explains Sophie Richardson. “The Chinese state has become increasingly paranoid and authoritarian since Xi Jinping took power in 2013,” she says. Chinese Christians have been a notable target of late. Authorities have removed crosses from more than 1,200 churches since early 2014 and the country’s security forces this week launched a roundup of church activists who oppose the crosses’ removals.
Lin has also felt ostracised by segments of the Canadian Chinese community, despite her Miss World Canada win and the backing of the Canadian government for her activism. She said she stopped being invited to events by community leaders tied to the Chinese embassy and consulate since her crowning. And to those community events that she is invited to, she is “monitored” by the Chinese consulate.
“They send officials to all social events,” says the actress, who also believes that her phone is tapped.
Whether China will allow her to compete in the Miss World final in Sanya, on Hainan Island, is uncertain, as many Falun Gong practitioners have been denied entry to the country in recent years.
“My aim is not to put an anti-China slogan on the stage,” she insists. “After all, it’s a beauty pageant. But I feel that my presence in that country alone would give people hope. The regime would show itself worthy of hosting the [2022 winter Olympic] Games by allowing me to enter China freely.”
A Canadian citizen has been detained in Beijing for more than 2 1/2 months – held against her will, according to supporters, for being a follower of the Falun Gong spiritual movement that is banned in mainland China.
Sun Qian, 51, who was born in China and obtained Canadian citizenship in 2007, was arrested in February, say Conservative foreign-affairs critic Peter Kent and Xun Li, president of the Falun Dafa Association of Canada.
It’s the second high-profile case in the past few months of a Canadian citizen winding up in the custody of the Chinese government.
And it emerges during the middle of a national debate over whether the Trudeau government should have agreed to negotiate an extradition treaty with China, a pact that would commit Canada to transfer fugitive Chinese to a country known for biased courts and harsh interrogation methods and where the death penalty is routinely imposed, even for non-violent crimes.
Ms. Sun’s case came to light this week when Mr. Kent raised the matter with Canada’s new ambassador to China, John McCallum, when he appeared before the Commons foreign-affairs committee. Mr. McCallum acknowledged the detention, saying he had been briefed on it, but offered little else.
In the second recent case, Chinese-Canadian billionaire Xiao Jianhua mysteriously disappeared Jan. 27 from Hong Kong’s Four Seasons Hotel, reportedly spirited away to the Chinese mainland by a phalanx of plainclothes policemen. Chinese political analysts think Mr. Xiao was wanted by President Xi Jinping and supporters because they believe he possesses incriminating evidence against political enemies of Mr. Xi.
Asked for comment on the Sun case, a spokesman at the Chinese embassy in Ottawa could offer none. It also did not confirm the nature of Ms. Sun’s detention.
The Chinese embassy, however, urged Canadian media to distrust any information provided by practitioners of Falun Gong, including its information websites. “Falun Gong is an evil cult that is anti-humanity and anti-science in nature, having caused enormous harm to Chinese society. It was banned by Chinese government in 1999, according to law,” embassy spokesman Yang Yundong said.
Referring to a Falun Gong website, Minghui, which has written about the Sun case, Mr. Yang urged The Globe to “believe no tales from them,” calling it an “anti-China” tool “that consistently makes up stories and spreads rumours.”
Mr. Wang said he had “no information” about Mr. Xiao.
Falun Gong emerged in China in the early 1990s as an exercise discipline focusing on meditation. It was soon seen as a threat, prompting a crackdown by the Chinese government. In 1999, authorities harshly suppressed the popular movement when some 10,000 practitioners gathered to protest outside Beijing’s elite leadership compound. International human-rights groups have for years documented the mistreatment of Falun Gong adherents in China.
On the issue of Canadians detained in China, Mr. McCallum said he doesn’t think discussing the cases is a good idea. “That doesn’t always help the person in detention if we broadcast their own situation in public. I think in those cases, almost all the time it is better to proceed in a low-profile way in order to do the best we can to help those individuals,” he told the foreign-affairs committee this week.
Mr. Kent disagreed and urged the Trudeau government to speak out in defence. “By staying silent or being less enthusiastic about speaking out, they are designating those folks as second-class Canadians.”
The department of Global Affairs refused to discuss Ms. Sun’s case, saying it needs to protect her right to privacy.
“Consular services are being provided to the Canadian citizen who has been detained in Beijing, China. Consular officials are in contact with local authorities to gather additional information,” said Austin Jean, a spokesman for Global Affairs.
Falun Dafa’s Mr. Li, who called the Chinese embassy’s characterization of the movement “hate speech,” wrote a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Wednesday, asking him to press Beijing to release Ms. Sun. “For the past 18 years, Falun Gong continues to be the most severely and illegally persecuted group in China,” he wrote. “The Canadian government has an obligation to protect Canadian citizens in China and also protect the dignity of Canadian values from being eroded by this repressive regime,” he wrote of the Chinese government, which is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party with no substantial political opposition.
He said Ms. Sun is being held in the Beijing First Detention Centre. He said she is a vice-president at a Chinese biochemical firm based in Beijing called Beijing Leadman Biochemistry Co. and that a Canadian embassy official visited her recently.
Mr. Li also said he believes Ms. Sun entered China on a Canadian passport on her most recent trip to the country.
Unlike Canada, China does not recognize dual citizenship and refuses requests from foreign governments in cases where Chinese-born people have not formally relinquished their passport or used their Chinese documents to enter China.
Mr. McCallum, meanwhile, defended the extradition talks, which the Trudeau government agreed to last September, saying the Liberals are a “long, long, long way” from actual negotiations. He says right now they’re just talking. “We’ve agreed to talk about the issues that need to be addressed for China or any other country to meet our high standards. This includes things like the death penalty and the importance of high standards of evidence in court proceedings. We lose nothing by explaining our system and talking about the values we hold dear.”
- China says it performs 10,000 organ transplants a year
- But shocking report says the real figure is closer to 100,000
- Incarcerated followers of Falun Gong religion are targeted for transplants
- Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said findings are ‘baseless’
China is forcing up to 90,000 prisoners a year to have organs removed, a shocking new report has claimed.
The widespread practice of removing organs from political prisoners has fuelled ‘organ tourism’ in China with foreigners paying for transplants.
Medical professionals and human rights advocates at The International Coalition To End Organ Pillaging In China have published a damning report which examines the transplant activity at hundreds of hospitals in China.
Co-author of the report Ethan Gutmann said in a video posted online:’If somebody goes to China to get an organ at this point, chances are they are getting it from a Falun Gong practitioner who was murdered on their behalf.’
‘Even if voluntary donations of organs have gone up, they can’t reach this level. This is live organ harvesting,’ he warned.
China has struggled to receive voluntary organ donations due to culture concerns so prisoners are primarily used to fill the demand for transplants.
The Chinese medical establishment claims that China performs 10,000 transplants per year but the report says the figure is closer to 100,000.
The report investigated the amount of transplant activity, surgical staff and beds in China and predicted an average of up to two transplants a day in China, over 100,000 transplants a year.
‘Many of the hospitals are relatively new or have new transplant wings or beds. This development would not have occurred without confidence in a continuing supply of organs for transplants,’ the report states.
‘The transplant business in China has developed with not only an abundance of available organs from 2001 on, but also with a confidence that this abundance would continue into the indefinite future,’ it continues.
Gutmann explained that removing organs from prisoners in China began in the 1980s but has dramatically increased in recent years.
‘By 2001, over one million Falun Gong incarcerated within the Laogai System were subject to retail-organ testing, and Chinese military and civilian hospitals were ramping up their transplant facilities. By 2002, it was select House Christians. By 2003, it was the Tibetans’ turn,’ he wrote on the End Organ Pillaging website.
Falun Gong is a Taoist-Buddhist sect that practices spiritual exercise and meditation regime. It has tens of millions of followers in China but in 1999 the Communist Party leadership initiated a nationwide crackdown to eradicate the practice.
Among the methods used to obtain the shocking transplant figures, researchers reviewed data from telephone surveys, hospital websites, and medical journals for the 865 hospitals in China which perform organ transplants (about 13 per cent of all hospitals).
They tracked 712 liver and kidney transplant centres and collected and analysed information about them and examined individually 165 hospitals approved by the Government of China to conduct transplantation.
On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying claimed the report’s findings are false.
‘The testimony and the published report, I want to say that such stories about forced organ harvesting in China are imaginary and baseless — they don’t have any factual foundation,’ she said.
On November 21, hundreds of Australian Falun Gong practitioners rallied in front of Capital Hill in Canberra to raise awareness of the ongoing human rights abuses perpetrated against their fellow practitioners in China since 1999. The rally put focus on murder for organs in China, and called for Australian politicians to support bringing an end to forced live organ harvesting and the persecution of Falun Gong by Chinese Communist Regime.
Banners calling for support from the Australian public and displaying the principles of the practice, Truth, Compassion and Tolerance, lined both sides of Commonwealth Avenue through the city centre and around Capital Hill.
Speakers at the rally included Fan Huiqiang from Australian Falun Dafa Association, MP Craig Kelly, former Canadian cabinet minister David Kilgourand Winnipeg international human rights lawyer David Matas. The two co-authored a new report which documents the killing of Falun Gong practitioners to supply China’s lucrative organ trade.
The report concludes that as many as 60,000 to 100,000 transplants have been taking place in China from the year 2000 to the present with the source being non-consenting prisoners of conscience; primarily Falun Gong. This puts the likely death toll of Falun Gong practitioners from forced organ harvesting in the region of 1.5 million over the past 15 years.
The emcee of the rally, Mr John Deller said: “What Falun Gong practitioners are doing is not protesting; they are only trying to tell the truth.
MP Craig Kelly spoke at the rally, sharing about a business trip he took to China a decade ago. He explained how most of the tourist brochures in his hotel contained a leaflet inside defaming Falun Gong in poor English. It took him 10 years to work out why the Chinese communist Government did this. Once he understood the truth of Falun Gong, he said: “I’ve always stood with you since then. That’s why I have been proud to be co-chairmen of the Parliamentary group against forced organ harvesting … doing something to stop it.”
Mr Kelly told Epoch Times that David Kilgour had held a briefing inside parliament house, introducing new evidence and explaining some of the latest findings on this human rights abuse. “We want people to donate their organs freely. But having a system where people are forced to have their organs harvested without consent … truthfully, this goes against everything we believe in. It is something we need to speak out against in our free and democratic parliament.”
Kelly said the introduction of a motion to the House of Representatives is underway. “We will make sure that it will go to parliament, and we will make sure it is bipartisan.”
Kelly said the motion condemning forced organ harvesting will be introduced early in the New Year.
David Kilgour also spoke at the rally outside parliament, “David and I have met with Falun Gong practitioners in over 50 countries; we have a great respect for you, what you believe, and what you do. There is never been an act of violence committed by any Falun Gong practitioner anywhere in China or anywhere else, you should be really, really proud of that. “
He also mentioned that he had a good hearing with parliamentarians that morning, but he said there are a lot of members of parliament who have yet to learn the truth of the matter before the Australian government will place a ban on Australians going to China for organs.
“What happened to the Jewish community is different from what’s happening to Falun Gong community. Not even Adolf Hitler would murder people and sell the organs to wealthy residents from Germany or China.” He said.
“A lot of people know what’s happening now, it’s better to stop it. Australia, Canada and all who believe in human dignity have to get this stopped. Please continue what you’re doing.”
Renowned international human rights lawyer David Matas also addressed the crowd, highlighting the total lack of transparency, accountability and traceability from China’s organ transplant industry.
“The Chinese communist regime cannot explain the organ source,” he said.