When the model and actress Anastasia Lin was crowned Miss World Canada last year, a fairly easy and lucrative career lay in front of her: magazine shoots, sponsorship opportunities and being paid to turn up to parties. She instead decided to use her position to confront the Chinese Communist party and call out its human rights abuses. Her new film The Bleeding Edge is a feature-length dramatisation about the organ trade in China. It might not be in a cinema near you soon, but it does screen in the House of Commons next week, in front of MPs and peers. And this is the audience that 26-year-old Lin is seeking.
Her website has the slogan ‘beauty with a purpose’, and Lin has both in abundance. Speaking from Toronto before her visit here, she tells me her unlikely story. Born in Hunan, China, she moved to Canada aged 13 with her mother. Outside the Great Firewall of China, she started to learn about the country’s history of human rights violations. She was shocked to discover that, contra to schoolbook propaganda, ‘Tibetans were not evil people’ and nor was Falun Gong ‘a cult that kills people’. She also learned about the Tiananmen Square massacre, and the protesters who defied the state.
Lara Prendergast speaks to Anastasia Lin on this week’s Spectator podcast:
She took inspiration from an unlikely source: Miss Canada 2003, the Iranian-born Nazanin Afshin-Jam. They met, and Afshin-Jam told Lin that, used wisely, the Miss Canada crown can be a political weapon. So when Lin won last year, she leapt at the chance to speak out about Chinese tyranny. The world final was being hosted in China and the Beijing authorities banned her from attending without giving a reason. She was shocked. ‘I was a 25-year-old theatre student, no possible threat to the regime,’ she said.