The CCP is taking Americans hostage — Biden wants to send more

President Biden wants to send more Americans to China as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is taking them hostage. The president’s decision to increase flights from the U.S. to China is irresponsible and recklessly gambles with American lives.

President Biden is willing and eager to hold high-level meetings with CCP officials while Americans remain wrongfully detained in China — legitimizing the Communist Party’s hostage taking diplomacy while getting nothing in return. The CCP takes innocent American tourists and business executives into custody at random. Our ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, recently said China raided “six or seven” U.S. businesses in the past 11 months, taking company executives hostage.

Among the most horrific examples of the CCP’s arbitrary detentions is Mark Swidan, a Texan whom I have fought to have released. Mark was traveling through China when he was arrested suddenly in his hotel room for a crime he could not have done. In fact, he wasn’t even in China when the crime was committed. In spite of his innocence, he has been held in China for over a decade and sentenced to death. His health is failing, with no access to nutritious food or proper medical treatment. He has not spoken to his family in years.

Every single American who travels to China could be detained like Mark Swidan. A sweeping set of CCP laws implemented between 2019-2023 encourage hostage-taking based on vague, open-ended provisions that can be used for any charge — even charges you have nothing to do with. Recorded “exit ban” cases in China rose eightfold between 2016 and 2022 — meaning eight times as many people are banned from leaving China now than there were in 2016. In 2022, nearly 30 Americans in China were unable to leave due to exit bans and over 100 Americans are still arbitrarily detained in Chinese prisons — and these are just the ones we know about. Obfuscation is standard operating procedure for the CCP, so we have very little information and even less recourse to bring them back home.

China’s hostage taking has become so prominent that MIT warns companies about these risks of doing business in China, and the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory warning Americans to, “reconsider travel to Mainland China due to the arbitrary enforcement of local laws, including in relation to exit bans, and the risk of wrongful detentions.”

Despite such obvious risks and growing hostilities in Beijing, the Biden administration announced on Feb. 27 the U.S. would allow Chinese airlines to increase flights to the U.S.—raising the weekly roundtrip flights to and from the United States from 35 to 50. The Biden administration should not reward the CCP’s dangerous — and oftentimes deadly — behavior.

Unfortunately, this administration seems eager to appease the CCP — and other malign actors, like Russian President Vladimir Putin — instead of taking a strong stance to protect American lives. We have seen what happens to hostages taken by dictators. In Russia, opposition leader Alexei Navalny died in a penal colony, and American journalist Evan Gershkovich languishes in a cell without sunlight or contact with his family. Reports of Mark Swidan’s suffering in China prove the CCP treats American hostages no differently.

Recent events and CCP laws prove Americans are not safe when traveling to China and the risks far outweigh the rewards. For Americans, a short trip could easily turn into a years-long detainment for a crime they never committed. Our nation’s leaders should be doing all that they can to protect the American people, not send them off to be taken hostage.

Michael McCaul is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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