Mother of Mark Swidan, U.S. citizen wrongfully detained in China, fears he may take his life

Washington – The mother of Mark Swidana Texas businessman who was wrongly detained in China, said she feared he would commit suicide after more than a decade behind bars.

“We are very concerned and concerned that Mark will end his life,” Katherine Swidan recently told CBS News after the U.S. Ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, visited her son in the Chinese detention center where he is detained.

A U.S. official confirmed the mid-March visit and said the United States had been concerned about Mark Swidan’s condition for some time. Burns told Mark Swidan he hoped to bring him home during his next visit, according to Katherine Swidan, who said she spoke to her son by phone in March for the first time in six years.

She said her son believed the United States was watering down the conditions of his detention.

“It’s 10 times worse,” he said, according to his mother. “Biden must act to free me now.”

Mark Swidan has languished in a Chinese prison since his arrest in 2012 for drug trafficking, which he denies. He was visiting China to buy flooring and furniture, according to his mother. But he was not in the country at the time of the alleged events, according to a review of his case by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

A Chinese court upheld his death sentence in 2023, with a two-year reprieve. The State Department opposed the move, saying it was “disappointed by this decision” and would “continue to press for his immediate release and return to the United States.”

His family and supporters have long expressed concern about his poor health, saying he suffered torture, including having both his hands broken and his kneecaps forcibly dislocated. He also reported losing more than 120 pounds. Mark Swidan detailed his conditions in letters to his mother.

“Her leg is so swollen that they may not be able to remove the corset without cutting it,” Katherine Swidan said in February at a news conference with the Bring Our Families Home campaign, which advocates for release. people wrongly detained. Americans. “He is sick. He only eats bread every day.”

The State Department considers Mark Swidan and two other Americans — Long Island businessman Kai Li and California pastor David Lin — to be wrongfully detained in China. a rare designation this puts all the forces of the American government to work to obtain his release. There are dozens of Americans unjustly detained in countries around the world, including Russia, China and Afghanistan.

President Biden called for the release of unjustly detained Americans during a call with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, according to White House spokesman John Kirby.

“The President also reiterated his call for China to release U.S. citizens wrongfully detained or subject to an exit ban,” Kirby said during the White House press briefing.

It was the first time the two leaders had spoken since meeting at a high-stakes summit in California last November, amid growing tensions between the two countries. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen are expected to continue high-level negotiations between the two countries during separate visits to China in the coming weeks.

Katherine Swidan said in February that she was increasingly “fed up” with the government’s inability to secure her son’s release and was “working with lawyers to explore all options.”

“I’m confident they’ll let him die and it’ll be over. They won’t have to worry about it,” she said. “It’s getting to a point where they have to be held accountable, and I’m the one who has to do it. So I have no fear.”


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