Pastor Cao San-Qiang

Area of Origin: USA, North Carolina (Ethnic Chinese)

Background: Pastor and humanitarian worker in Burma  

Reason for his arrest: 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” between China and Myanmar 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.

In his trips to Myanmar, Pastor Cao would travel with other Chinese Christian missionaries, and for two years these trips were conducted without any interference by government authorities; however, in March 2017, Pastor Cao and some of his peers were detained upon their return to China following their visit to Myanmar. Pastor Cao was charged with “organizing illegal crossings of national borders,” a charge which has historically been used solely in cases of human trafficking.

Experts believe his arrest and sentencing are related to the ruling Communist Party’s attempts to control the house church movement.

Current Status as of February 2019:

  • LATEST NEWS July 2019:  Pastor Cao’s request for an appeal has been consistently postponed, and as of July 2019, he was transferred to Kunming Prison, Yunnan Province, China, where he continues to serve his sentence.