The Sad Tragedy of Mark Swidan

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

I really, truly, sincerely and wholeheartedly feel for Mark Swidan. Mark Swidan, age 41, went to Southeast and East Asia to travel and paint and draw pictures of what he had seen. He had met a Filipina whom he wished to marry and he went to China to buy Chinese furniture for a home he hoped to build in the Philippines. This did not happen. In 2013, he was arrested by the Chinese authorities for possession and intent on manufacturing meth amphetamines. There were three problems with this arrest. First, no physical evidence was found to show he was involved in any of this at all. Second, no witnesses. And finally, he was never at the place where he was said where meth amphetamines were manufactured. With really no evidence against him, Swidan is still be held in administrative detention without trial and without any real chance that he would be cleared of the illicit drug charge.

In a western or Asian democratic country Mark Swidan would have been cleared a long time ago, or his case would never have gone to trial. But this is China. Three things I know about the way the Chinese legal system works. First, the government will not admit they are holding an innocent man in prison because it would mean a major loss of face. Second, the whole judicial system is a pile of ant crap and cannot be relied upon for a fair verdict. Finally, Mark Swidan is being held without trial and without counsel which is not unusual in China. Mr Swidan’s life has been badly shattered and I and his family is not sure he will come back alive. His Filipina fiance has left him, and he has threatened suicide rather than he locked up indefinitely. U.S. government officials keep stating that he should go through the Chinese legal process. My only comment on this is that given what I have said above he is a dead man.

There are times when diplomatic, political and even economic pressure MUST be applied to help save and protect Americans in other countries who are clearly the victims of an unfair judicial system and a brutal and repressive government. This is the time to do so. I am to put it mildly disappointed that the U.S. State Department is not doing more to help Mark Swidan. All indications are that he is not only innocent, but a clear and obvious fact that he is not being treated well in a Chinese prison (hence why he is considering suicide). The urgency of letting him know that the U.S. government is doing all it can to help should be made clear to both the Chinese government and to Mark Swidan who needs all the help he can get. His family is economically strapped and at its wits end. I do not care about any American politicians’ concern about diplomatic niceties in regards to the Chinese government—-an American is in serious trouble and needs help now. Let us all hope that Mark Swidan can be released unconditionally so that he can return to his family.

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