On Face the Nation, Sen. Cruz Calls for Mark Swidan Release and Countering Chinese Espionage and Dependency
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan on CBS News to discuss his ongoing efforts to secure the release of Mark Swidan, a Houston, Texas resident who has been unjustly detained by China since 2012.
About Mark Swidan, Sen. Cruz said:
“Right now, there is a Texan, Mark Swidan, who is a political prisoner. He is a hostage in China. He's been there for 10 years. This past week, I introduced a resolution on the floor of the Senate along with John Cornyn, calling on China to release Mark Swidan. He's wrongfully imprisoned. He's been there 10 years. They've sentenced him to death on charges for which they have little to no evidence and I had been urging Tony Blinken when he was going to Beijing to raise Mark’s case and to make the case for Mark to be released. China, if they want to demonstrate that they're not bad actors, if they want to demonstrate that they can aspire to being a great nation, they should release Mark Swidan, because great nations and great powers don't hold political prisoners.”
Later that day, Sen. Cruz gave remarks from the Senate floor on the topic. Read that release and view his speech here.
Read the full transcript of Sen. Cruz’s commentary with Face the Nation below:
Sen. Cruz 0:00
Listen, I want to start by doing something that I don't do very often, which is commending Joe Biden for actually having the guts to shoot this down. That was the right thing to do. That is absolutely what the President should have done. Unfortunately, he didn't do that until a week after it entered U.S. airspace. He allowed a full week for the Chinese to conduct spying operations over the United States, over sensitive military installations exposing not just photographs but the potential of intercepted communications. And more broadly, I think this entire episode telegraphed weakness to Xi and the Chinese government. And to illustrate why I would just ask one hypothetical question. Imagine how this would have played out if nobody had taken any pictures of the balloon, if nobody in Montana had looked up and noticed this giant balloon, if it wasn't in the news? We know that when the Biden administration knew about the balloon, they said nothing. They did nothing. They didn't shoot it down. And at the end of the day, I think the only reason they shot it down is because it made it into the news. Well, and they felt forced to as a matter of politics rather than national security. That's a bad message for the Chinese government to hear.
Margaret Brennan 1:15
Well, the Pentagon has since disclosed that it's apparently happened four times before, never quite like this. Back in 2020. The Trump administration shuttered the Chinese Consulate in Houston after detecting espionage. Do you think there needs to be more diplomatic fallout on that scale now?
Sen. Cruz 1:32
Look, I think there does. When the Trump administration shut the Chinese Consulate in Houston, I spoke with the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about it. And what they had discovered about the espionage activities being carried out in the state of Texas by the Chinese government was horrifying. Right now, there is a Texan, Mark Swidan, who is a political prisoner. He is a hostage in China. He's been there for 10 years. This past week, I introduced a resolution on the floor of the Senate along with John Cornyn, calling on China to release Mark Swidan. He's wrongfully imprisoned. He's been there 10 years. They've sentenced him to death on charges for which they have little to no evidence and I had been urging Tony Blinken when he was going to Beijing to raise Mark’s case and to make the case for Mark to be released. China, if they want to demonstrate that they're not bad actors, if they want to demonstrate that they can aspire to being a great nation, they should release Mark Swidan because great nations, and great powers don't hold political prisoners.
Margaret Brennan 2:35
And he is wrongfully detained according to the State Department. This was raised to Xi Jinping in November and there hasn't been a release to date. Thank you for mentioning that, but I want to ask you about your role. You are the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee. You're also a dad, I know. You know how hard it is to keep kids offline and this app called Tik Tok, it's been downloaded 200 million times. I know you think it's espionage. Are we at the point where we're past a ban, where this is just so embedded? That you can't get rid of it?
Sen. Cruz 3:09
Look, Tik Tok is incredibly concerning. You're right. With our kids, if you have teenagers, if you have kids in junior high or high school, they're all using it. And the degree to which they have infiltrated our children is really disturbing. There lots of problems with it: their problems in terms of the messages that they're pushing on young kids - body image messages, where for girls in particular, you have problems with eating disorders, where they push one message after another, you have messages of self-harm, where the algorithms push self-harm messages on young girls and we're seeing really disturbing figures among teenagers. And then on top of that, you've got the espionage risks. The Chinese Communist government has access to all of the information Tik Tok collects. I think it is a serious, serious threat. I'll tell you on the Commerce Committee, I've already sat down with each of the Republican members on the committee to ask them their priorities. And there was consensus on this side of the aisle that focusing seriously on Tik Tok as a priority. And I think there are a lot of Democrats who are very concerned about it as well.
Margaret Brennan 4:13
As a ban or to force the sale of it?
Sen. Cruz 4:16
Well, I think all of the options are on the table. And I will tell you, I have encouraged Maria Cantwell, the Democrat Chairwoman, that I think it makes sense early on for us to have a hearing on Tik Tok and examine these harms very directly - how it's hurting our kids, and how it's undermining national security. As I said, both Republicans and Democrats are very concerned about the impact of Tik Tok.
Margaret Brennan 4:40
Should America restrict us companies from investing in Chinese industries and key technology sectors?
Sen. Cruz 4:47
Well, I think we should be doing a lot to delink our supply chain from China to make it so that we are not dependent on China. We saw during the pandemic when one of the major Chinese state owned newspapers threatened to cut off life-saving pharmaceuticals, things like heart medication that people depend upon. And it makes no sense for us to leave the lives of Americans at the whim of the Chinese government. I'll tell you in the last Congress, I introduced an amendment on the floor of the Senate to block the United States government from purchasing electric vehicles or batteries that were manufactured using slave labor in concentration camps in China. China has over 1 million Uyghurs in concentration camps. And Margaret, sadly, when we voted on it, every Democrat, but one, every Democrat but Joe Manchin voted no. And right now, the Biden administration is one of the largest customers in the world, for the concentration camps that are carrying on murder and torture right now in China. That doesn't make any sense. And it's not right.
Margaret Brennan 5:54
Now, Senator, I want to ask you about something here at home. You also introduced a bill to limit terms to two six year terms in office for Senators. Why don't you hold yourself to that standard? You said you're running for a third term?
Sen. Cruz 6:08
Well, listen, I'm a passionate defender of term limits. I think that Congress would work much better if every senator were limited to two terms. If every house member were limited to three terms. I've introduced a constitutional amendment to put that into the Constitution. If and when it passes, I will happily, happily comply. I've never said I'm going to unilaterally comply. I'll tell you what, when the swamp are ready to leave Washington, I will be more than happy to comply by the same rules that apply for everyone. But until then, yeah, I'm gonna keep fighting for 30 million Texans because they've asked me to.
Margaret Brennan 6:44
I think you heard me ask if you're running for President.
Sen. Cruz 6:48
I'm running for reelection to the Senate. There's a reason I'm in Texas today. I'm not in Iowa. I'm in Texas, and I'm fighting for 30 million Texans.