The American Center for Law and Justice is calling on the Chinese government to free Pastor John Cao – a lawful U.S. permanent resident – after he was imprisoned on false charges of organizing illegal border crossings.
The organization, which is representing Cao's family, recently published a petition on its website calling for the Pastor's release.
"After decades working in China and Burma (Myanmar), providing for the poor, sharing the love of Christ, and establishing schools for impoverished children, Pastor John was arrested and imprisoned by Chinese authorities as part of their increased crackdown on Christian pastors," notes the petition.
"Pastor John's wife and 2 sons (all U.S. citizens from North Carolina) desperately want their father released and returned home to America. Pastor John has been unjustly targeted for his Christian faith and sentenced to seven years in prison."
"He's been imprisoned since March 2017. His health is deteriorating, and he's lost over 50 pounds. He's forced to share a cell with a dozen inmates and only 1 bed."
The ACLJ says it has been "aggressively working internationally" for Cao's for ultimate freedom.
"We've mobilized our resources across the globe and are urging China to release Pastor John and allow him to come home to the United States to be reunited with his wife and kids," it notes.
As of Thursday afternoon, the petition had received 86,187 signatures.
Cao has held U.S. permanent residency since 1990 but kept his Chinese citizenship so that he could continue entering China for his mission work. He pastored a church in Greensboro, N.C. and is married to an American citizen.
Cao, who was caught by Chinese security forces on March 5, 2017, apparently managed to throw away his cellphone into the water while on a raft returning from Yunnan province as part of his school-building efforts. His efforts protected 50 other Christian teachers, though he himself was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Previously, the pastor revealed that he was inspired by a very famous North Carolinian, namely the late evangelist Billy Graham, whose radio broadcasts stirred in him a desire to minister to the Chinese people.
Jamie Powell, Cao's wife, recently spoke at the State Department's first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C.
"It appears to me that John was set up for his arrest because of his faith-driven work," Powell said at the ministerial.
"Since his detainment, my husband has suffered a rapid decline in his health. He has lost 50 pounds. He has not been able to communicate with me and my children. My sons and I traveled there – 10,000 miles – and we were not allowed to see him," she added.
"The seven years he has unjustly received now becomes a matter of health and survival."
In an op-ed for Fox News, ACLJ representative Jordan Sekulow argues Cao "is being imprisoned simply because he is a Christian."
"At the American Center for Law and Justice, we have been raising the alarm about how churches have been forced to close due to persistent government pressure. Christians in China have been increasingly facing arrest for sharing the Gospel," Sekulow states.
"We've taken direct action at the U.N. Human Rights Council, calling attention to China's persecuted Christians. We recently delivered a written legal submission – through our European affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) – asking for international pressure on China to stop this continued crackdown on religious liberty."
"It appears Cao is just the latest victim of this crackdown on Christianity. The pastor and his attorneys have filed an appeal, but to date the appeal has not been heard and the deadline has been delayed over and over again."
Sekulow goes on to reiterate that the ACLJ is "actively and aggressively urging the Chinese government to release Cao and allow him to return home to the United States to be reunited with his wife and sons."
"Cao should not spend another night in a prison cell because he is a Christian and feels a moral obligation to help others in dire need."