Lawmakers Urge Biden to Bring Up Issue of Detained Americans With Xi

Lawmakers Urge Biden to Bring Up Issue of Detained Americans With Xi – U.S. legislators are urging President Joe Biden to emphasize the release of American citizens unjustly held by China during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in San Francisco on Wednesday. According to the U.S. State Department, individuals such as Texas businessman Mark Swidan, Chinese American businessman Kai Li from Long Island, New York, and California pastor David Lin are among those wrongfully detained. 

Representative Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has consistently advocated for Mark Swidan’s release and has urged President Biden to prioritize the matter in his discussions with Xi. McCaul said in a statement sent to a news outlet: “The Biden administration must stop making any concessions based on false promises and hold the [Chinese Communist Party] accountable for its gross human rights violations.”

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On November 8, Republican Representative Mike Gallagher, who chairs the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, along with 12 committee members, penned a letter to the White House. In this correspondence, they urged President Biden to address 10 issues with Xi Jinping, including the release of all U.S. citizens identified by the government as wrongfully detained in China. Additionally, 

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, chair of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, conveyed a similar message to Biden, as reported by Reuters. “With the holiday season approaching, and the opportunity to start the New Year on a more positive note in bilateral U.S.-China relationships, I implore you to secure commitments from President Xi to release these Americans immediately,” Cardin wrote.

Reuters reports that a spokesperson from the State Department has stated that the issue of wrongfully detained U.S. nationals is consistently raised during discussions with senior Chinese officials. China asserts that such cases are handled in accordance with the law. Mark Swidan, a Texas businessman, faced arrest on drug-related charges in Guangdong Province during his inaugural visit to China in 2012. 

Subsequently, in 2013, the Jiangmen Intermediate People’s Court in southern Guangdong found him guilty of drug manufacturing and trafficking, issuing a death sentence with a two-year suspension in 2019. Per Chinese law, this allows for potential commutation to life imprisonment based on the convict’s conduct after two years. Despite an appeal this year, his sentence remains unchanged. The U.S. Embassy in China said in a statement, “We are disappointed by this decision and will continue to press for his immediate release and return to the United States.”

The United Nations Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has labeled Swidan’s imprisonment as unlawful, urging Chinese authorities to release him promptly and offer compensation. “It is 11 years this month since Mark was detained,” Swidan’s mother, Katherine Flint Swidan, 73, told a news outlet. She said Biden must bring up those wrongfully detained in China when he meets Xi because “they are pawns.”

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According to news reports, she revealed that the Chinese government has rejected visitation requests from the U.S. consulate since September, and her son was being transferred to Dongguan Prison near the Hong Kong border. Her last direct contact with her son was in a 2018 call, and since then, communication has been through letters. In one of them, Swidan detailed dislocated knees, leg fluid retention, and constant mouth bleeding.

U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns informed her in August, after visiting Swidan, that he was in poor health with suicidal tendencies. Residing in a small apartment in Luling, Texas, about 76 kilometers south of Austin, Katherine Swidan, who relies on Social Security benefits and uses a walker, fears she might never reunite with her son, worried about his safety in China.

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