China keeps death sentence for US citizen on drug charges

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(The Hill) – The U.S. State Department on Thursday said it’s “disappointed” by China’s decision to uphold the death penalty with a two-year suspended death sentence for “wrongfully detained” U.S. citizen Mark Swidan.

“Today the People’s Republic of China’s Jiangmen Intermediate Court denied wrongfully detained U.S. national Mark Swidan’s appeal, and upheld his death penalty with a two-year suspended death sentence,” State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel 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.”

Patel said U.S. officials have “repeatedly expressed their concerns” to top China officials about Swidan’s treatment and medical care, as well as “his inability to send or receive mail in a timely manner.” 

Swidan, from Houston, has been imprisoned in China on drug-related charges for more than 10 years, Reuters reports. He was sentenced to death in 2018, according to the Associated Press.

The United Nations Human Rights Council determined in 2020 that Swidan was arbitrarily detained and urged China to make the “appropriate remedy” and release Swidan “immediately.”

“Mark Swidan is a Texan who has been held as a hostage in China for over a decade. He has been sentenced to death on false charges,” said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) on Twitter earlier this year. “China says they want to [be] respected on the world stage, but this is how Third World despots act. They must release Mark.”

President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are “personally focused” on releasing Swidan “and other U.S. nationals wrongfully detained or held hostage across the world,” Patel added in his Thursday statement. 

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