The American Center for Law and Justice reports Cao’s imprisonment is part of China’s aggressive crackdown on Christian pastors.
“Pastor John has been unjustly targeted for his Christian faith and sentenced to seven years in prison,” ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow wrote in an email
He added that Rev. Cao has already been in prison for more than 20 months and has lost more than 50 pounds.
Cao’s troubles began on March 5, 2017, when he and his friend used a makeshift bamboo raft to cross a narrow stretch of water dividing southern China and neighboring Myanmar.
Cao was reportedly transporting Bibles and other materials from China into Myanmar. It was a trip he’d made 11 times before, in each instance bearing food and other humanitarian supplies.
However, on his latest expedition, security agents were awaiting him when he arrived on the Chinese shores.
“My father, being a Christian minister, he knew what he was getting himself into and he often took pride in the risk that he might one day become a martyr for his beliefs,” Cao’s son, Ben, told CBN News earlier this year.
Meanwhile, the ACLJ has launched a petition calling for the pastor’s release.
“We’re representing Pastor John’s family, aggressively working internationally for his ultimate freedom,” the ACLJ said in a statement on its website. “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.”