HomePoliticsFamilies of Americans Wrongfully Detained in China Demand Griner-Style Prisoner Swap

Families of Americans Wrongfully Detained in China Demand Griner-Style Prisoner Swap

National security adviser Jake Sullivan told China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi, in June than liberate the americans wrongfully detained or subject to exit bans in China is a “personal priority for both him and the president,” a senior administration official told reporters at a post-meeting briefing.

Now the families are accusing the administration of abandoning that promise and failing to apply the same level of resources and resolve that helped free Griner to address the plight of his incarcerated family members.

The Biden administration launched a high-profile international campaign to free Griner following his arrest in February that included recruiting foreign governments such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to push for his release. The White House also personalized Griner’s plight during his 10-month lockdown by making repeated public calls for his freedom and present to Moscow a prisoner exchange proposal five months after his arrest. That paved the way for Moscow to swap notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner on Thursday.

Biden should “act much faster and much more forcefully and with the same urgency as [he] did with the Griner case,” Harrison Li said. Prisoner exchanges “are the only tool that seems to work and it’s one of the tools that we will push for.”

Li is the son of Kai Li, a US citizen arrested in September 2016 by the Shanghai State Security Bureau and sentenced to a 10 years in prison in July 2018 for allegedly spying for the FBI. The UN declared Kai Li a victim of arbitrary detention in 2021. He is one of three Americans jailed in China that the State Department has designated as “wrongfully detained.” the others are swidan brand Y david lin.

Of course, there are Americans being held on trumped-up charges all over the world. The government does not publish up-to-date and accurate lists of those wrongfully imprisoned, but a State Department official said in july that the total was between 40 and 50 worldwide.

But the plight of US citizens arbitrarily detained in China is particularly troubling given Beijing’s inaction in the face of years of diplomatic efforts to free them. The Chinese authorities have also prohibited prisoners in person access to US consular officers for much of the last three years due to what law enforcement officials say are Covid control protocols. US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns complained last month that those restrictions circumvented “our 1980 consular agreement to see American prisoners.”

The Chinese embassy in Washington, DC did not respond to a request for comment on the status of bilateral talks aimed at freeing Americans wrongfully imprisoned in China.

The nonprofit prisoner release advocacy organization Dui Hua Foundation estimates that the number of Americans wrongfully imprisoned in China is much higher than those identified by the State Department, arguing that there are at least 200 Americans wrongfully imprisoned in China. and up to 30 who are subject to illegal exit bans.

Katherine Swidan, whose son Mark was arrested by Chinese police in 2012 for alleged drug trafficking, combs through media reports to compile lists of Chinese nationals jailed for spying in the United States who she believes could be traded for the freedom of their son. “The Department of Justice needs to figure out who we have here that is important enough to [the Chinese government] I want them back,” Swidan said.

Non-profit prisoner release advocacy organization The Dui Hua Foundation has said that China has no substantive evidence against Swidan. After a five-and-a-half-year trial, a court in Guangdong province sentenced Swidan to death with a two-year reprieve in January 2020. He has refused to confess to any crimes even though confessions can reduce the sentence. and he is appealing his conviction.

The Biden administration says it is doing everything it can to free those people. “The President and Secretary are not only aware, but are tracking and working every day to secure the release of wrongfully detained Americans in the People’s Republic of China,” the State Department said in a statement.

Family members of US citizens wrongfully detained in China are skeptical. “That is just empty rhetoric: I am not aware of any serious proposal for a prisoner trade to the Chinese government,” Li said.

Family members are particularly disappointed by the fact, according to information provided to them by administration officials, that Biden did not mention individual cases of Americans wrongfully detained in China during his meeting with Chinese Supreme Leader Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting. in Bali, Indonesia, last month.

Katherine Swidan and Alice Lin, David Lin’s daughter, confirmed that administration officials had also told them that. “That was not an encouraging sign to us that the rhetoric was actually backed by something substantive,” Li said. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Advocates for the release of foreign nationals wrongfully detained in China say their relatives have good reason to be frustrated. “Biden has a terrible relationship with Putin, but she seems to have a pretty good relationship with Xi, yet we see Griner walking out of a Russian prison and not [wrongfully detained] Americans leaving China,” said John Kamm, founder of Dui Hua and who has decades of experience getting people out of Chinese prisons. “Why hasn’t Joe Biden used his relationship with Xi Jinping to advocate for Mark Swidan, Kai Li and David Lin?”

While Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called China “the most serious long-term challenge to the international order,” Biden has also long maintained that his personal relationship with Xi was forged over dozens of hours of individual meetings when Biden was vice president gives him an advantage in his dealings with Beijing. Biden played to that supposed advantage after he met Xi on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting in Bali last month. telling journalists that the two leaders “understand each other”.

The Chinese government showed its willingness to engage in prisoner exchanges in 2021 by responding to the release of Huawei CEO Meng Wanzhou from Canadian custody by releasing arbitrarily detained Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

That provides an opportunity for the Biden administration to negotiate with Beijing for the release of prisoners “less hateful than Victor Bout and less famous than Brittney Griner,” he said. peter humphrey, a former victim of arbitrary detention in China who works to free foreign nationals who wrongfully end up in prison there. “The United States should take advantage of the supply of Chinese prisoners it may have in its jails… [and] think in terms of swaps.”

At the same time, Griner’s release allows family members of Americans arbitrarily detained in China to see a possible path to the release of their loved ones. “Seeing Brittney Griner come home gives us hope… there is a way to bring [other] they unfairly detained Americans at home,” Lin said.

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