A Canadian China-born beauty pageant winner who is currently in Hong Kong after being denied permission to fly to China said she feels “cosy and at home” here.

Anastasia Lin, 25, is an outspoken actress, Falun Gong practitioner and winner of Miss World Canada who has been barred from travelling to Sanya, Hainan for the 2015 Miss World competition. She has been in Hong Kong for almost 36 hours and has spent most of her time at Hong Kong International Airport since she landed early Thursday morning.

anastasia lin
Anastasia Lin.

She told HKFP in a phone interview that she feels completely safe in Hong Kong.

“I admire the will of the people of Hong Kong who are fighting hard to preserve their freedom… I feel cosy here and with Chinese people all around me, it feels like home,” said Lin.

“And I’m able to eat a lot of dimsum,” she added.

Before Lin moved from Canada at the age of 13 and became a follower of Falun Gong, she was a student leader at her school in China and participated in the “propaganda of spreading lies” about Falun Gong.

“After I moved to Canada, my mom introduced me to the other side of the story. The more research I do, the more it’s clear that I was stifled for years under a smear campaign, and that the Chinese government was lying. It’s not an evil cult and they don’t kill people. I have talked to Falun Gong practitioners in Canada who have experienced labour camps and heard their experiences, it’s really horrendous.”

anastasia lin
Photo: WikiCommons.

“Personally I resonate with the teachings of Falun Gong, that is truthfulness, compassion and tolerance. These are traditional beliefs of China that have existed since ancient times, and are quite valuable especially after the spiritual vacuum in China after the Cultural Revolution,” she said.

Lin was a close follower of last year’s pro-democracy Occupy movement. “Seeing so many young kids going on the streets to defend what they believe in was inspirational and emotional. They are infectious and inspire people and the movement becomes big, and that’s what the Chinese government is really afraid of.”

Despite her outspoken views and criticisms of human rights in China, Lin shies away from politics and does not consider herself a dissident or an activist.

“The thing about me is that I’m a theatre major. I’m not good at politics or policy. I got into this because I was an actress and acted in shows that discussed Chinese issues like corruption and media control. I never considered myself involved in politics. I just simply speak my mind,” she said.

anastasia lin
Photo: Anastasia Lin, via Facebook.

According to a statement she posted on Facebook, Lin did not receive an invitation letter from the 2015 Miss World competition being held in Sanya, which prevented her from arranging the necessary visa. As a Canadian citizen, she still feels she is eligible to receive an on-arrival visa in Sanya.

However a spokesman from the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa, Canada told The Globe and Mail that China does not allow any ‘persona non grata’ to come to China. While Lin wasn’t mentioned by name, it was implied that she wasn’t welcome in China as per the country’s sovereign prerogative.

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Even though Lin plans to leave Hong Kong and travel back to Canada on Saturday, she still maintains hope that the Chinese authorities will change their mind. “I have every right to be there,” she said.

Medhavi Arora is in her final year at the University of Hong Kong studying Journalism and International Relations. Her print, video and multimedia pieces have been featured in the Times of India and CNN-IBN. She is a former intern at UN Women and has additional experience in sustainability, international affairs and communications.