Houston man 'wrongfully detained' in China for more than 10 years, 'I’m just really mad' mom says

American lawmakers have renewed a call on China to release Mark Swidan, a Houston resident who has been wrongfully detained in the country for more than 10 years.

"Mark is my baby, my best friend," said Mark’s mother, Katherine Swidan. "We just want to get Mark home so we can take care of him."

Last week, Texas Senator Ted Cruz introduced a resolution calling for the release of Swidan.

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"This resolution not only calls for Mark's immediate release, it also condemns China for withholding from Mark access to his family and to proper medical care," said Senator Cruz. "Furthermore, it calls upon the Biden administration to prioritize efforts to secure by Marc's release, both in their conversation with Chinese diplomats and international forums."

In 2012, Swidan was on a business trip in China to purchase flooring for construction work. On Nov. 13, 2012, Chinese authorities detained the then 38-year-old and accused him of trafficking drugs. However, records indicate Swidan hadn’t even been in China during the time of the alleged crime.

"I was on the phone with him and I heard banging," said Katherine. "He said, ‘Hold on mom there’s someone at the door’. It was Chinese police. They said they wanted to check his phone. I was just a crazy person trying to find him."

Since being wrongfully detained, Katherine says her son has lost more than 100 pounds. She claims Chinese authorities have been torturing Mark and the now 48-year-old’s health is deteriorating. 

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Mark Swidan

"They tried to coerce him to confess," said Katherine. "Whatever they do to him, he will not ever confess to something he did not do."

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Katherine says she hasn’t been able to speak with her son since 2018.

"I used to cry a lot," said Katherine. "I was cried out [and] prayed out. Now, I’m just really mad."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Friday, in response to a suspected Chinese spy balloon hovering across the United States. Katherine had hoped the meeting was going to include discussions about her son.

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"The world can see that the Chinese Communist Party is trying to use hostages and hostage-taking as a tool of statecraft," said Sen. Cruz.  "The Chinese Communist Party says they want to be taken seriously as a great power and a great nation and they say they want to be respected on the global stage. But their treatment of Mark is not how great nations and great powers behave their treatment of Mark is how third world despots act."

Swidan is now appealing a death sentence issued to him in 2019. Katherine says she’s desperate and hopeful to get her son back home to Texas.

"If you want to let the world see you as legitimate trade partners, they need to let Mark go," said Katherine. "They need to stop these childish antics."

"I'm calling on the Biden administration to use all of the tools at our disposal to secure Mark's release," said Cruz. "And I'm calling on the government of China to finally release mark."