WASHINGTON -- The cause of human rights in China has brought a Canadian beauty queen before the U.S. Congress.

Actress Anastasia Lin, who made human rights part of her winning bid in May to become Canada's contestant to the global Miss World beauty pageant, testified Thursday about religious persecution in China.

The 25-year old Lin, who was born in China, plays an imprisoned practitioner of the outlawed Falun Gong sect in an upcoming Canadian movie, "The Bleeding Edge."

"Through my encounters with persecution victims and their family members, I have found that these practitioners of Falun Gong, who have been marginalized, defamed and vilified in China for the past 16 years, are noble people," she told the Congressional Executive Commission on China. She said practitioners are imprisoned and tortured for their beliefs.

"I wanted to speak for those in China that are beaten, burned and electrocuted for holding to their beliefs; people in prison who eat rotten food with blistered fingers because they dare have convictions."

Falun Gong was outlawed as a threat to social stability in China in 1999.

Lin moved to Canada when she was 13, and said her father was proud of her when she was crowned Miss World Canada, "but within a couple days, my father's tone changed."

"He told me nervously that I must stop my advocacy for human rights in China, or else he would have no choice but to sever contact with me," Lin told the commission.

She said she believes her father was visited by Chinese security agents, who forced him to apply pressure on her.

"I don't get to talk to him anymore.'

These threats are how Canadian and American citizens with family in China feel the weight of the regime's repression -- even on the other side of the world, she said.

"I hope that you can help Chinese people gain a voice, to support them in their wish to believe what they want to believe and talk to whoever they want to talk to about any topic they wish.

"I miss my dad."

The University of Toronto graduate said she still hopes to be able to compete in the 2015 Miss World pageant, which will be held Dec. 19 in Sanya, China.

"Recent events leave me uncertain, I'm a little worried about what will happen next if I continue to speak out," she said.

"Human rights and religious freedom in China don't just affect the people that live there, they affect every person of Chinese ethnicity around the world that still have loved ones there.

Last week, Hollywood star Richard Gere, a longtime activist for freedom in Tibet, testified to another congressional panel on repression by Chinese authorities of the Buddhist followers of their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

On a visit to China last November, Prime Minister Stephen Harper raised the issue of religious freedom in a meeting with President Xi Jinping.