ACLJ Seizes on New Executive Order Urging Biden Administration To Free Christian Pastor John Cao From Wrongful Imprisonment in China


CeCe Heil

July 29, 2022

3 min read

Persecuted Church



On July 19, 2022, President Biden issued an “Executive Order on Bolstering Efforts to Bring Hostages and Wrongfully Detained United States Nationals Home.”  The order declares that the wrongful detention of U.S. nationals is a heinous act, one which undermines the rule of law. President Biden therefore declared a “national emergency to deal with this threat.”

As we have previously told you, we represent the family of Christian Pastor John Cao – a U.S. permanent resident and innocent pastor who has been wrongfully imprisoned in China for over five years because of his faith. Therefore, we sent a letter to Secretary Blinken, in light of the Executive order, asking for renewed and increased efforts to secure the release of Pastor Cao. We reminded Secretary Blinken:

Pastor Cao, a United States lawful permanent resident for over 30 years, has been married to Jamie Powell, a U.S. Citizen and resident of North Carolina, since 1988. They have two adult sons who are also U.S. Citizens. As a missionary, Pastor Cao faithfully served the people of China for over two decades without incident. In 2013, Pastor Cao focused his humanitarian efforts on the impoverished Wa area of Northern Burma, where he provided basic necessities and established 16 schools serving more than 2,000 students.

Pastor Cao conducted his commendable humanitarian work openly in front of both the Chinese and Burmese governments. This work continued without any problem until March of 2017 when Pastor Cao was suddenly and wrongfully targeted, arrested, convicted, and sentenced to seven years in prison. Although Pastor Cao appealed, he was denied an appeal hearing on July 25, 2019, in violation of China’s own law, and transferred to Kunming Prison.

We pointed out all the efforts that have taken place on behalf of Pastor Cao, from his wife testifying before the U.N. Human Rights Council, to the favorable opinion from the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, stating that “[t]he deprivation of liberty of Cao Sanqiang (John Cao), being in contravention of articles 7, 8, 10 and 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is arbitrary and falls within categories II, III and V.”  The U.N. Working Group further requested that Pastor Cao be released immediately.

We also shared the letter from the Congressional Executive Commission on China requesting that President Trump meet with Pastor Cao’s family and persistently raise his case in discussions with Chairman Xi Jinping and other senior Chinese officials. We further pointed out that despite all of these efforts, Pastor Cao still remains wrongfully imprisoned in the Kunming Prison to date.

We are hopeful that given the Executive order’s strong commitment to bringing wrongfully detained U.S. nationals home, the entire Biden Administration, including the State Department, will do everything in its power to effectuate a release for Pastor Cao.

As we have seen with the release of our other clients, Pastor Brunson and Pastor Nerren, prayer plays a major part in the success of getting these wrongfully detained pastors back home to their families, as well as providing protection for them while they are held captive. Please join with us by praying for the protection and release of Pastor Cao, and by signing our petition. We can make a difference when we join together!