China imprisons North Carolina missionary working with ethnic group in Burma

by WorldTribune Staff, July 3, 2018

A group of U.S. lawmakers are calling on China to release a Christian minister from North Carolina who has been sentenced to seven years in prison in China for allegedly organizing illegal border crossings into Burma.

Pastor John Cao. / AP

Pastor John Cao, who is of Chinese origin, built 16 schools that serve 2,000 impoverished minority children in Burma’s northern Wa State. Cao is married to an American citizen and they have two sons.

Cao was arrested March 5, 2017 by Yunnan Public Security police. Initially, he was charged with illegal border crossing but the charges were later upgraded to organizing illegal border crossings, according to a July 3 report by Bill Gertz for the Washington Free Beacon.

Cao had spent a year in prison before receiving the seven-year sentence.

In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, the congressmen said Cao’s wife and lawyer believe the “unjust and harsh sentence is a result of his missionary work, his foreign/U.S. contacts, and his Chinese ethnicity.”

The letter was signed by North Carolina Republican Reps. Robert Pittenger, Mark Walker, Ted Budd, Richard Hudson, Walter Jones, Mark Meadows, and David Rouzer along with New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith and Illinois Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren.

“Such a cruel prison term against Rev. Cao serves only to coerce and intimidate other Americans from working in China,” the letter stated. “From our knowledge of other similar cases, Rev. John Cao will likely be forced to suffer intentionally poor prison conditions, mistreatment, or even early and mysterious death. In light of this situation, we respectfully ask for your assistance in releasing Rev. John Cao from Chinese prison and guidance in safely returning him home to his family and church in North Carolina.”

The lawmakers said the Chinese government began cracking down on Cao’s humanitarian work “through unwarranted questioning and forceful closure of several Wa minority schools.”

Li Guisheng, Cao’s lawyer, said that the pastor, since 2013, has organized the building of schools and supported other humanitarian programs aimed at helping the Wa people, an ethnic group of mostly farmers living in northern Burma and China’s Yunnan Province.

“Based on my thorough review and investigation of this case, I truly believe Pastor John Cao is innocent,” Li said. “He was wrongfully convicted and punished for saving lives and providing education for the poor.”

“John has found true love in Christ by just doing good deeds in Wa State, but the inconsistent laws and regulations has made it impossible for him to obtain a border pass, and for that he was severely penalized to receive seven years imprisonment, a maximum sentence reserved for organized smugglers and drug traffickers. This is not fair, nor just, nor legal,” Li said.

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