American 'wrongfully detained' on death row in China as officials call for release
Texas Republicans are renewing calls for the release of Mark Swidan, a 38-year-old American on death row in China on drug charges the U.N. says is wrongfully detained.
Two Republican senators from Texas are publicly calling on China to release a "wrongfully detained" American facing the death penalty after he was arrested for drug trafficking on a business trip to the country over a decade ago.
Mark Swidan was 38-years old when he went to China on business looking for flooring for construction work in November 2012. He was arrested after his driver and translator were allegedly found with drugs, Texas Tribune reported.
A United Nations report determined that Swidan was not in possession of drugs on his person or in his hotel room, and records show he was not in China at the time of the alleged offense.
The U.N. report said that the 11 other people arrested with Swidan as part of the alleged trafficking ring were unable to identify him and that the conviction was based on his visiting a factory that had once been used to manufacture methamphetamine.
Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn along with Republican Rep. Michael Cloud are renewing calls for Swidan’s freedom and introduced a resolution last week calling on the Biden administration to secure his release.
"We’ve been engaged with Mark’s case for some time, with the Chinese government [and] with the State Department," Cruz told Fox 26 Houston. "Because it wasn’t getting done, we made the decision that the next step to escalate the pressure was taking it public. I’m going to keep pressing because Mark needs to come home, and he needs to come home now."
Swidan’s mother Katherine, who has not been able to see him since 2018, says that her son’s health is deteriorating and that he has lost more than 100 pounds.
"We just want to get Mark home, so we can take care of him," Katherine Swidan told Fox 26 Houston. "They tried to coerce him to confess. Whatever they do to him, he will not ever confess to something he did not do. His passport shows that he wasn’t in China at the time of any crime."
Swidan also says that Chinese authorities have been torturing her son who is facing a death sentence that he has been fighting for three years.
"His court for the appeal has been postponed 30 times," she added. "No one can give a straight answer as to why he’s still there."
"I'm calling on the Biden administration to use all of the tools at our disposal to secure Mark's release," Cruz said. "And I'm calling on the government of China to finally release Mark."
Secretary of State Antony Blinken was slated to travel to China over the weekend, when the family hoped progress could be made to secure Swidan’s release. However, the trip was postponed in response to a Chinese spy balloon being launched into the United States.
"The Chinese government won’t allow the U.S. Consulate personnel to talk to him," Cruz said. "They won’t allow his mother to talk to him. His conditions are dire."
Fox News Digital reached out to the State Department but did not immediately receive a response.
"For the last decade, Mark Swidan’s family has tirelessly fought for his return after he was wrongfully detained and sentenced to death by the Chinese government," Sen. Cornyn said in a news release. "The human rights abuses Mark has suffered at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party are horrific, and I will continue to push the Biden administration to expedite his case and secure his release."
The calls for Swidan's release come several months after the Biden administration negotiated a prisoner exchange with Russia to free WNBA star Brittney Griner who was imprisoned on drug charges.