Chinese-American pastor David Lin

US Ambassador visits Chinese-American pastor David Lin

Photo: Chinese-American pastor David Lin, wrongfully imprisoned for “contract fraud” (Courtesy of the Free Pastor David Lin Committee)

(China—April 24, 2023) U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns recently made a rare in-person visit with at least three U.S. citizens believed to be wrongfully detained by Chinese authorities, including American pastor David Lin, who was imprisoned in 2006. For the first time in more than five years, a U.S. official has been granted a meeting. David Lin’s sentence ends in April 2030.

Two other Americans

According to Reuters, a U.S. State Department spokesman said Burns accompanied consular officers on the prison visits to U.S. citizens imprisoned in China. Burns met with two other American citizens, Kai Li, a Chinese-American sentenced to 10 years in prison on espionage charges. Bur ns also met with Mark Swidan, a Texas-based businessman convicted in 2019.

US-China relations

Reuters said that in US-China relations, the issue of detainees is often placed behind more pressing matters. Families of detained Americans say their relatives’ freedom should not be bundled with challenging policy issues. Instead, US officials should address these cases in a separate track focused on humanitarian issues.


In the 1990s, David Lin frequently traveled to China. His trips led to the realization of the necessity of spreading the Christian Gospel in China, so he made up his mind and hoped to obtain a license from the Chinese government to carry out Christian ministry. In 1999, he started his preaching tour in mainland China. During this time, the Chinese government constructed an “eased” image of itself for the bid for the 2008 Olympic Games. However, in a secret campaign codenamed “Typhoon No. 5” around 2007, hundreds of foreign Chinese missionaries were expelled.


Pastor Lin became swept up in this crackdown. In 2006, he was suddenly detained by the Chinese police for helping a house church build a church building. Subsequently, authorities restricted him from leaving the country. He was arrested in 2009 on suspicion of “contract fraud.” His case was handed over to a Chinese court for review; in the same year, they sentenced him to life imprisonment.

An opportunity for the Gospel

Lin expressed that he sees his incarceration as an opportunity to teach, share his faith, and encourage prisoners. Since the beginning of his imprisonment, he has established a prayer meeting group in prison.

David Lin’s request for early release

Between December 2018 and early 2019, he suddenly increased the frequency of phone calls to his family. Pastor Lin requested early release. Officials reported that his health deteriorated significantly, and it was suspected that the prison subjected Lin to “inhumane abuse.”

Changed sentence

The outside world does not know what kind of changes have taken place in Pastor Lin’s situation in prison. In November 2022, his sentence was reduced to a scheduled release in the year 2030. No matter the circumstances, the face-to-face meeting between U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns and Pastor David Lin is regarded as a positive development.

~ Gao Zhensai, Special Correspondent of ChinaAid

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