Dear friends, at 6:00am local time on Nov 26th I arrived in Hong Kong en route to Sanya, China, host city of the 2015 Miss World competition.
Unlike all other Miss World contestants, I did not receive an invitation letter from the Chinese organizers of this event, and so was unable to obtain a visa in advance. I was never given an explanation as to why I did not receive the letter. Under Chinese law, however, Canadian citizens are eligible to obtain a landing visa upon arrival in Sanya, so I decided to try attending anyway.
Unfortunately, I was prevented from boarding the plane from Hong Kong to Sanya. No reason was given for the denial. I will be holding a press conference in Hong Kong tomorrow morning at 10am local time at the Regal Airport Hotel.
The slogan of the Miss World competition is “Beauty with a purpose.” My purpose is to advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves—those who suffer in prisons and labor camps, or whose voices have been stifled by repression and censorship. I also want to give courage to all people living under repressive systems. Many of them have lived in fear for so long that they have forgotten that they can think freely.
This is a very personal cause for me. When I was a child growing up in China, my job as a student council president involved enforcing ideological purity among my classmates, organizing them to watch Communist propaganda. It was only after I moved to Canada that I discovered what it meant to think freely, to use my own mind, and to live without fear of arbitrary punishment or reprisal.
To me, this is the essence of being Canadian and living in a free society. And it is something I hope that all people will one day be able to experience.
In my case, this path led me to start practicing Falun Gong—a system of meditation and qigong based on the values of truth, compassion, and tolerance. I also learned about the severe persecution that people in China face for following these values. Hundreds of thousands of peaceful and law-abiding people have been imprisoned and tortured, and many have died or disappeared in custody after they refused to renounce their beliefs and swear allegiance to the Communist Party.
It is not limited to Falun Gong. Many others in China and around the world also face persecution for holding true to their convictions. And yet they persist. They refuse to be silenced or submit to fear and coercion. They have the courage to live in accordance with their conscience, no matter the price.
Their courage is a constant source of inspiration to me. It is why I have continued speaking up even after Chinese security agents visited my father and sought to intimidate him. It is why I kept going even after I didn’t receive the invitation letter from the Chinese organizers of the Miss World Final. I owed it to all those who don’t have a voice to at least try.
That is why I tried to go to Sanya. As the Canadian representative to Miss World, I have every right to be there and take my place among the other contestants and share my message.
My denial was unfortunate, but not entirely unexpected. 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 about human rights issues. Many others have had similar experiences: for years, the Chinese government has used the threat of visa denials to punish dissidents or anyone with unapproved views, and to bring academics and journalists to heel.
This is not conduct befitting an aspiring superpower—especially one that hopes to host international competitions such as Miss World and the upcoming Winter Olympics. Silencing beauty queens, censoring journalists, and torturing religious believers is not a sign of strength—it is a sign of profound weakness and insecurity.
If China wishes to be respected by the international community, it should abide by the norms and standards of that community. If it wishes to be strong and prosperous, it should realize that strength comes from diversity, from being able to listen to different ideas. The Chinese people have an ancient civilization with rich intellectual traditions. They are fully capable of discerning right from wrong if given a chance. It is too bad that the Chinese government will not afford them this opportunity.