Anastasia Lin, the reigning Miss World Canada and human rights activist, is calling for the immediate release of a Canadian citizen who was imprisoned and brutalized in China for her spiritual beliefs.
At a United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on June 19, Lin described the case of Sun Qian, a Chinese-Canadian businesswoman detained by the Chinese authorities in February for practicing Falun Gong.
Lin called on the Council to help end the persecution of Falun Gong and investigate the killing of prisoners of conscience for their organs, which she described as “crimes against humanity.”
“Chinese victims want to know: How could the UN have elected China to this Human Rights Council?” she said.
The Chinese delegation attempted to block her speech by calling a point of order, but their objection came too late, said an upbeat Lin over the telephone.
“At the end of the speech, they realized how serious my speech was,” Lin said. “They started to smack the table to catch the attention of the President.”
In their official response, the Chinese delegation slandered the practice of Falun Gong, and made “some ridiculous statements that they’re ‘helping’ people through extrajudicial imprisonment and torture,” Lin added.
Combining a moral philosophy with slow-moving exercises, Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, spread widely in the 1990s, reaching an estimated 70 million to 100 million adherents by 1999, according to state and practitioner estimates. Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin felt threatened by Falun Gong’s popularity, and launched a persecution campaign to eradicate the practice in July 1999.
According to a recent Freedom House report, Falun Gong practitioners are routinely arrested, tortured, and exploited for free labor. Practitioners are even murdered for their organs to fuel the Chinese regime’s lucrative organ transplantation industry.
“China’s response is shocking but not surprising,” Benedict Rogers, the East Asia Team Leader of nonprofit Christian organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide, wrote in an email. “For some time now China has taken an aggressive stance against its critics on human rights within the UN, not only in regard to the persecution of Falun Gong but also on human rights violations faced by Christians, Uyghurs, Tibetans, human rights lawyers and political dissidents.”
Rogers continued: “The language China has used about Falun Gong is fairly typical but absolutely wrong and completely unacceptable. I hope other member states in the UN will use their positions to speak up for Sun Qian, defend human rights in China and counter China’s attempts to silence voices such as Anastasia Lin’s.”
Sun Qian, the Canadian citizen whose plight Lin is seeking to draw attention to, is just one of hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners who have been arbitrarily detained for their spiritual beliefs.
Born in China, Sun, 51, became a Canadian citizen in 2007. She first started practicing Falun Gong in 2014, according to Minghui.org, a clearinghouse for information on the practice and the persecution.
Sun, the vice president of Beijing Leadman Biochemistry Co., Ltd., traveled regularly between Vancouver and Beijing for work. While Sun was in her Beijing home on February 19, over twenty plainclothes security agents suddenly barged in, ransacked her home, and took her away.
Sun was imprisoned at the Beijing First Detention Center’s 414 Prison Room, a facility notorious for its brutal treatment of detainees.
When Sun’s lawyer visited her on May 27, he noticed palpable bruises and cuts on her wrists from the handcuffs. After the visit, she was pushed to the ground by four male guards and sprayed in the face with a pungent chemical, her lawyer told Sun’s sister, Sun Zan.
A number of high-level Canadian officials have since appealed for Sun Qian’s release, including Conservative MPs Peter Kent and Michael Cooper, former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler, and Green Party leader Elizabeth May.
“The notion that practicing Falun Dafa, which is a non-violent spiritual practice, should put someone in the crosshairs of the authorities in the People’s Republic of China remains a deep concern to every Canadian concerned about human rights,” May said during a May 9 press conference.
Anastasia Lin first learned of Sun Qian’s story when she received a handwritten letter from Sun’s 78-year-old mother on April 28.
“When our families back home are threatened by the Communist Party, it’s a very vulnerable feeling. There is nothing one can really do but to publicize the case and hope that media attention will add an extra layer of protection” for those in China, Lin told the Epoch Times in an email.
Lin is familiar with having family members being intimidated by the Chinese regime. Security officers regularly harassed Lin’s father, who lives in China, because of her human rights advocacy.
The Chinese authorities also blocked Lin from entering the country for the 2015 Miss World competition in southern China, effectively ending her participation in that year’s contest.
The Miss World organizers allowed Lin to represent Canada in 2016 when the beauty pageant was held in Washington D.C., but they barred her from speaking to the media in the weeks leading up to the competition.
Lin recently launched a Change.org petition drive calling for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to publicly demand that the Chinese regime release for Sun Qian, likely her last campaign as Miss World Canada before the 2017 pageant is held next month.
“I would like to use this final opportunity to help this Canadian citizen, who’s been wrongfully imprisoned in China,” Lin said in the petition video. “I hope all my fellow Canadians and all the kind people around the world will sign this petition.”
Larry Ong contributed to this article.