Since his imprisonment began in November 2012, Swidan has professed his innocence of any of the charges brought against him. In 2019, he was sentenced to death for his alleged involvement in an international methamphetamine operation.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) drew attention to his case in anticipation of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s planned trip to Beijing, which has now been delayed.
Last week, Cruz introduced a resolution in the U.S. Senate calling for Swidan’s release. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Michael Cloud (R-TX-27) co-sponsored the resolution.
“I am calling on the Biden administration to use all the tools at our disposal to secure his release, and on the government of China to finally release him and return him home,” Cruz said in a press statement.
Cornyn joined in condemning Swidan’s imprisonment, stating, “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.”
Swidan was arrested and detained in 2012 on charges that he was involved in the manufacture and distribution of illegal drugs. While Swidan was on the phone with his mother, Katherine, packing his bags to return to the U.S. after a business trip to China, Chinese officials invaded his hotel room.
She heard banging and yelling, and then the phone disconnected. Katherine didn’t know what had happened to her son for two weeks, according to the Amer Fakhoury Foundation, an advocacy group for hostages and their families.
Later she heard from the U.S. State Department that her son had been detained.
According to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the prosecutors have produced no forensic evidence of Swidan’s involvement in the crimes and there were no drugs found on his person or in his hotel room.
Katherine has received letters and drawings from her son that she has kept and pored over.
Cruz’s resolution accuses China of detaining Swidan in inhumane conditions including exposure to extreme weather conditions, sleep deprivation, and physical and psychological abuse.
According to a social media post by Katherine, Mark has lost 130 pounds, has had his hands broken several times, his knee dislocated, and has severe periodontal disease.
“I will come home in a box of ashes or walking off a plane, but I will come home, Mama,” Katherine wrote that Mark told her during one of her contacts with him.
In 2022, the Special Presidential Envoy for Presidential Affairs (SPEHA) took an interest in Swidan’s case, according to the Amer Fakhoury Foundation. SPEHA is charged with coordinating the State Department’s work related to overseas hostage-taking and wrongful detention.
No updates about Swidan could be found on the SPEHA website.
According to a state department spokesperson, most of its requests for in-person consular visits are currently being refused by Chinese authorities, often for coronavirus-related reasons. This violates the U.S.-PRC Consular Convention of 1980 which assures U.S. citizens detained in China can receive consular services, including visits by a U.S. consular officer.
Consular staff was able to speak with Mark Swidan by video call on January 17, 2023, according to the spokesperson.
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Kim Roberts is a regional reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.