Texas lawmakers are ramping up pressure on the Biden administration to demand the freedom of a Houston businessman imprisoned in China.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) delivered an impassioned speech on the Senate floor and introduced a resolution supported by other Texas lawmakers on Wednesday calling for the Chinese Communist Party to release Mark Swidan “immediately” after more than a decade of captivity.
🚨”Madam President, I rise today to speak about a gross miscarriage of Justice, the imprisonment of #FreeMarkSwidan.” – Sen. @tedcruz @SenTedCruz is a gifted lawyer, and today, Mark’s mom got to hear a first class defense of her son.pic.twitter.com/TQTYCV28h1
— Jonathan Franks (@jonfranks) February 2, 2023
The resolution precedes a trip Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to make to China this weekend.
“Mark Swidan’s captivity must come to an end for himself, for his family, and for the United States,” Cruz said in a statement. “Secretary Blinken’s upcoming trip to Beijing should be the final chapter in this tragedy.”
Chinese authorities arrested Swidan, who is now in his 40s, in 2012 while he was on a business trip. He was convicted in 2019 after being accused of taking part in a criminal drug conspiracy and given a death sentence that was delayed, according to Austin ABC affiliate KVUE.
The U.S. government views Swidan’s detention as wrongful. And in light of recent prisoner swaps, his mother hopes Blinken might push for the release of her son.
“My message for Blinken is: say their names,” Katherine Swidan told Reuters, alluding to other families calling on the secretary of state to pressure Beijing to release their loved ones. “They’re American citizens. They’ve been wrongfully detained. Enough is enough.”
The State Department designated three Americans held in China — Swidan, along with Kai Li and pastor David Lin — as “wrongful detainees,” POLITICO reported last year.
Cruz’s resolution, which is co-sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Michael Cloud (R-TX), warns Swidan’s health has deteriorated amid “inhumane” conditions and a lack of adequate medical care. The resolution also notes a United Nations working group found Swidan as being held in violation of customary international law.
“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 his statement.