His life imprisonment sentence has been reduced after American pressures, but eight further years in jail may be too much for his frail health.
by Mao Xiaosi
An American pastor has been detained in China since 2006. The U.S. administration’s efforts to have him released have now achieved a result, as in the eve of the Biden-Xi Jinping meeting in Bali the pastor had his life imprisonment penalty reduced to 24 years, meaning he should be free in 2030.
If he survives until that date, that is. Because since 2018 Pastor David Lin has been in poor health conditions. The incarcerated pastor should not be confused, as some media did, with another David Lin, a Seventh-day Adventist missionary who was born in 1917 and died in 2011. Remembered as the most important figure in the history of Chinese Adventism, that David Lin had in common with his present-day namesake the long years spent in Chinese jails. The David Lin who died in 2011 remained in jail for 20 years. The David Lin who was detained in 2006 has now been in jail for 16 years.
Born in 1955, Lin was not a believer when he moved to the United States, where he later became a naturalized citizen. An economist, he served as adviser to state officials in both Iowa and California. It was his wife who first converted to Christianity, and persuaded him to also convert. Since the 1990s, Lin used his trips to China to support local churches.
These were still the post-Deng-Xiaoping years of relative tolerance, and to be on the safer side Lin registered as a Christian minister in 1999. However, things changed for the worse in the 21st century. In 2006, Lin was stopped by the police and placed under house arrest for illegal religious propaganda. Months later, he was formally arrested. Since he had helped Chinese nationals entering into a contract for premises intended for a non-authorized house church place of worship, “contract fraud” was added to the list of charges. In 2009, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
He was sent to a jail intended for foreign nationals, who came from more than thirty different countries. In an extraordinary turn of events, he called his family and told them that they should not organize any special protest for his release, as he saw what has happened as part of a mission given to him by God and as an opportunity to evangelize his fellow inmates.
Lin maintained this attitude for nine years, until in December 2018 he sent to his family in the United States a package with his Bible, his most cherished possession. In a subsequent phone call, he urged his family to call for his release, as his health was deteriorating and he was not receiving proper medical care in jail.
Lin’s family contacted the U.S. Department of State, which reportedly worked behind the scenes. Last month, it was announced that his sentence has been reduced to 24 years, and he will leave jail in April 2030. His family, however, doubts that Lin may survive another eight years of imprisonment.