Who amongst us hasn’t marveled at the improbable rise of Knicks PG Jeremy Lin and wondered, “I wonder what Joba Chamberlain thinks of all this?”. Yeah, me neither. Though Lin has been characterized as Taiwanese-American, the New York Times’ Keith Bradsher reports, “mainland China is already starting to claim him as its own, part of an incessant rivalry across the Taiwan Strait.”

Cai Qi, the organization chief for the Communist Party in Zhejiang, posted a message on his Twitter-like microblog over the weekend claiming that Lin’s ancestral home is Jiaxing, a city on the northeastern outskirts of Hangzhou where Lin’s maternal grandmother grew up.

Lin’s combination of success in the N.B.A. and strong Christian faith — he has spoken in the past of becoming a pastor someday — has fired the imagination of many Asian-American Christians. There are some early signs that he may also be catching the attention of Christians in China, who continue to face varying levels of persecution.

At the Zhejiang Theological Seminary here in Hangzhou, Professor Yan Ronghui said that she was planning to use Lin’s religious faith and basketball successes as a model for students in her course in “theological English” this semester.

Hu Shubang, a 25-year-old student at the seminary, said that Lin would become a natural symbol for Christians in China to use in seeking converts.

State news media have covered Lin’s basketball exploits heavily but avoided mentioning his faith, part of a broader pattern of omitting or censoring religious subjects.