Canada’s Miss World contestant was stopped in Hong Kong on Thursday and barred from boarding a flight to the beauty pageant finals in China.
“My denial was unfortunate, but not entirely unexpected,” she wrote. “The Chinese government has barred me from the competition for political reasons. They are trying to punish me for my beliefs and prevent me from speaking out about human rights issues.”
Despite the denial, Lin boarded a flight to Hong Kong on Wednesday with hopes of obtaining a visa at the border and continuing on to Sanya, on the Chinese island of Hainan, where the Miss World finals are being held, The New York Times reports.
However, Chinese authorities blocked her from boarding her connecting flight, declaring her “persona non grata,” or an unwelcome person.
“Ask the Chinese government, why is it afraid to let in a beauty queen?” Lin, 25, said at a news conference at Hong Kong International Airport, according to CNN. “Ask them whether they would also bar Olympic athletes from participating in the Winter Olympic Games just because they have different views that a Communist Party don’t agree with?”
In July, Lin testified at a U.S. congressional hearing on religious persecution in China, saying in her testimony that she wanted to “speak for those in China that are beaten, burned and electrocuted for holding to their beliefs,” according to her statement on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China’s website.
Lin practices Falun Gong, a religion deemed an “evil cult” by Chinese officials.
Lin believes she was blocked from entering China for her record of speaking out and for using her Miss World Canada platform to “shed light on official corruption and religious persecution in China,” she wrote in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post. Her advocacy, she says, had led to problems for her family in China.
She wrote in her op-ed piece that security officials in China threatened her father, urging him to rein in his daughter’s advocacy. When she called him, he hinted that his phone line had been tapped and was being monitored. He even threatened to cut ties with her if she did not stop speaking out against the country’s abuses, she wrote.
Her response was the op-ed piece, followed by her testimony at the U.S. congressional hearing. Her father cut her off financially, the Times reports.
The Miss World Organization has not publicly commented on the situation, but Lin’s photo is missing from the pageant’s website. Lin told the Times, however, that pageant officials offered her a spot in next year’s contest.
The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa issued a statement on Thursday saying that “China Welcomes all lawful activities organized in China including the Miss World Pageant. But China does not allow any persona non grata to come to China.”
Lin told the Times that being denied entry is “kind of sad,” noting that she has “every right to be at the event.” But now Lin is using the situation to further broadcast her message.
“When I was told I’m persona non grata, I had to look it up on Wikipedia,” she said. “At first I was mad Now I realize it’s a badge of honor.”