On March 5, 2017, police arrested Cao San-Qiang (John Cao), a Chinese pastor known for his work among Myanmar’s poor. Authorities charged Pastor Cao with “organizing illegal crossings of national borders” and, one year later, sentenced him to seven years in prison.
Pastor Cao, 58, is married to an American citizen and is a long-time resident of North Carolina. The pastor, who is currently being held in the Menglian Detention Center, had been crossing the border between China and Myanmar for three years without incident and with the knowledge of Chinese officials. In the Wa State of northern Myanmar, Pastor Cao helped build 16 schools that serve 2,000 impoverished children. He also established educational projects to help alleviate poverty among local minority groups.
Experts believe his arrest and sentencing are related to the ruling Communist Party’s attempts to control the house church movement.
Pastor Cao became a believer in his 20s. After he married an American citizen, attended seminary and settled in the U.S., he felt led to return as a missionary to his home country of China. He worked for many years establishing schools in China before turning his attention to neighboring Myanmar in 2014. According to his son, his work in Myanmar was much more humanitarian than his previous work with the house churches in China.
Pray for the pastor’s wife, Jamie Powell, and their sons, Benjamin and Amos.
A Visit from His Mother - August 2020
Pastor John Cao was able to meet with his mother a few days ago. Because of the pandemic, his mother was only able to see him via video link, but she said John looks fine. He told her he prays daily for his brothers and sisters in Christ and everything going on in the world. He said he is also aware of what has happened to Pastor Wang Yi.
He reassured his mother that he does not have to do field work, and that he has time to read and interact with other inmates.
7-year Sentence Upheld - July 2019
On July 25, 2019, a court in Yunnan upheld Pastor John Cao’s seven-year sentence after a farce of an appeal process. The decision was handed down in a court surrounded by heavy police presence. Only Cao's 83-year-old mother and her sister, along with their lawyer, were allowed to hear the verdict.
In August, John was transferred to a prison in Kunming.