Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), co-chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), led the letter. Other commissioners signed it, including Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Angus King (I-Maine), Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Representatives Chris Smith (R-N,J,), Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Brian Mast (R-Fla.), and Ben McAdams (D-Utah).
One of the two imprisoned pastors is John Cao, a legal permanent resident from North Carolina who taught in schools for ethnic minority communities in Burma before his arrest in March of 2018, on his way back into China from Burma.
Cao was sentenced to seven years in prison for allegedly "organizing others to illegally cross the border," a sentence that was upheld by a Chinese court this summer. The UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has determined that Cao was arbitrarily detained, and has requested his immediate release.
Another pastor, David Lin, was detained by China in 2006 while awaiting approval to build a church. He was convicted on fraud-related charges and sentenced to life in prison, although his sentence was later reduced to a scheduled release in the year 2030.
"We write to express our deep concern about the Chinese government's imprisonment or arbitrary detention of U.S. citizens and permanent residents in China," the members wrote President Trump in their Monday letter.
Several other Americans are mentioned in the letter, which also asks Trump to raise the situation of relatives of American citizens or legal permanent residents who are currently detained in Xinjiang. Almost two million ethnic Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims have been incarcerated in mass internment camps in the region, with reports of torture, forced marriage, and organ trafficking.