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‘Say Their Names’: Families Urge Blinken to Use China Trip to Free U.S. Detainees

Chinese-American citizen Kai Li, who has been detained in China since 2016, poses for a picture while fishing on the Long Island Sound in New York, U.S., August 23, 2015, in this handout picture. Harrison Li/Handout via REUTERS
Chinese-American citizen Kai Li, who has been detained in China since 2016, poses for a picture while fishing on the Long Island Sound in New York, U.S., August 23, 2015, in this handout picture. Harrison Li/Handout via REUTERS

Katherine Swidan, whose son Mark has been imprisoned in China for over 10 years, has not seen even a photograph of him over the last decade. The last time she heard his voice was in 2018.

She and the families of other Americans, who according to the U.S. government are wrongfully held in China, are hoping that the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken can push the Chinese authorities for the release of their loved ones as he visits Beijing next month.

“My message for Blinken is: say their names,” said Katherine Swidan in a phone interview from her home in Luling, Texas. “They’re American citizens. They’ve been wrongfully detained. Enough is enough.”

Mark Swidan, a Texas-based businessman, was convicted by a Chinese court on drug-related charges despite a lack of evidence and in 2019 given a death sentence with reprieve. A United Nations working group has concluded he was arbitrarily detained in violation of international law.

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