November 13, 2015 / 4:53 AM / 5 years ago

Canada's Miss World aspirant to keep mum on rights if let into China: organizer

TORONTO (Reuters) - The chief executive of Miss World Canada said on Thursday its finalist in the beauty pageant, a human rights activist, has agreed not to speak about rights abuses in China if she is allowed in for the finals of the competition.

Miss World Canada Anastasia Lin poses with her crown before an interview at her home in Toronto, Ontario November 10, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Canada’s China-born contestant, Anastasia Lin, said this week her visa to travel to the pageant at a Chinese resort had been delayed, and her father harassed by Chinese officials, after she spoke out about human rights abuses in the communist country.

Ike Lalji, the chairman and chief executive of Miss World Canada, said he had assured officials at the pageant’s London headquarters that Lin would focus on the contest and not “her cause” if she was allowed to attend the Dec. 19 contest final in Sanya, China.

“I guarantee if she goes there she will just focus on the competition, she will not get involved in her cause,” Lalji said in a telephone interview. “It’s a compromise.”

But Lin, an actress and Falun Gong practitioner crowned Miss World Canada in May, said she had not agreed to be silent about human rights abuses.

“They can’t guarantee anything without getting me involved, and this is the first time I’ve heard of this,” Lin, 25, said in a telephone interview. “I have never agreed to such a thing.”

Lalji said he has had no contact with Chinese officials or the Chinese host of the final contest. He is giving assurances of Lin’s cooperation to Miss World officials in London, and they are in contact with China to try to win Lin’s invitation letter.

“They are the ones communicating with the ministry of foreign affairs in China,” Lalji said.

No one at Miss World in London was immediately available to comment.

An official at the foreign affairs office of the Sanya city government in China hung up the phone when told a reporter was calling.

Lalji said it was not a matter of censoring Lin, but of compromising to respect China as host.

“It doesn’t mean I support China, but I understand China, because they fear a controversy is going to happen,” he said. “I understand China’s position too, because she is powerful. She has the whole media behind her.”

Lin, 25, testified at a U.S. Congressional hearing on religious persecution in China in July.

With additional reporting by Megha Rajagopalan in Beijing; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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