The world can see China is not a “great power” as the U.S. Congress unites in demanding freedom for Mark Swidan, an American who has been “unjustly detained” for more than a decade, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) declared on Tuesday.
Cruz spoke exclusively with The Daily Wire days after the Democrat-controlled Senate passed by unanimous consent his resolution calling for the immediate release of Swidan, a move which followed the GOP-led House unanimously approving its own resolution making the same demand.
Such a “powerful” display of unanimity demonstrates a “degree of focus and visibility” that is sure to be noticed by Beijing, according to Cruz, who noted that the Chinese Communist Party is “highly sensitive” to international pressure.
“The Chinese dictatorship does not like the world to realize that they are oppressive despots,” Cruz said. “Great powers do not hold hostages and China is not behaving like the great power it claims it wants to be.”
Chinese authorities arrested Swidan, a Houston businessman who is now in his 40s, in 2012 while he was on a business trip. Swidan was convicted in 2019 after being accused of taking part in a criminal drug conspiracy and given a delayed death sentence.
A Chinese court rejected Swidan’s appeal and upheld his death penalty with a two-year suspended death sentence, the State Department announced last month.
President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken “continue to remain personally focused on the release of Mark Swidan and other U.S. nationals wrongfully detained or held hostage across the world,” State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said in a statement.
Cruz’s resolution, which was co-sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), warned Swidan’s health has deteriorated amid “inhumane” conditions, a lack of adequate medical care, and efforts to prevent family from contacting him. The resolution also made note of a 2020 United Nations working group report that determined Swidan was being arbitrarily detained and should be released.
“Time is of the essence. It is now or never, I believe,” Cruz said on Tuesday.
The senator divulged that he has been in contact with Swidan’s mother, Katherine, noting she “desperately” wants to see her son come home. To that end, in addition to his resolution, Cruz said he has been “leaning on” the State Department to do more and met with China’s ambassador to push for Swidan’s release.
The State Department says Biden raised the issue of “wrongfully detained U.S. nationals” in a November meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Indonesia, and U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns reportedly met with some of them, including Swidan, in recent weeks.
That’s not enough for Cruz, who said there are a number of “tools” that can be employed, such as exerting economic and diplomatic pressure to the point that China decides it is “not worth the hassle to keep Mark Swidan as a hostage.” Cruz said he plans to keep using his “leverage” in the Senate and posited that the president could make a huge difference with one small suggestion.
“As far as I know, Biden has never said the name Mark Swidan. That needs to change,” Cruz said. “The president needs to stand up and use the bully pulpit of the White House to call for his release.”