Kai Li, 60, is one of three Americans imprisoned in China whom the US State Department has designated ‘wrongful detainees,’ along with pastor David Lin and Texas businessman Mark Swidan.
On Tuesday, Li’s son Harrison Li told DailyMail.com that his family felt abandoned by the Biden administration, after Secretary of State Antony Blinken had promised to make ‘substantive progress’ on the Chinese hostages before any Biden-Xi summit.
‘These cases are just being forgotten, and no subsequent progress has been made,’ said Harrison during an emotional virtual press conference. ‘It’s been 2,616 days (in captivity) for my dad, and we’re constantly being given the runaround by the government.’
‘All these cases were a thing since President Biden was vice president under the Obama administration. So now we’re on at least a third administration, and still nothing has gotten done,’ he said.
Kai Li, above, is one of three Americans imprisoned in China whom the US State Department has designated ‘wrongful detainees’
Spokespersons for the White House, US State Department, and China’s embassy in Washington DC did not immediately respond to requests for comment from DailyMail.com on Tuesday.
Teams for Biden and Xi reportedly have an agreement in principle for them to meet on the sidelines of a summit in San Francisco next week, although final confirmation of the meeting is still pending.
Harrison said that as the summit looms, he fears the plight of the three American detainees in China is falling by the wayside, even as the ordeal of Americans and other hostages held by Hamas in Gaza garners high-level attention from the media and the White House.
He called the recent attention on the Hamas hostages fully justified, but said he hopes that the issue will simultaneously raise awareness about Americans held in China and elsewhere.
‘I think people are becoming more aware as a whole that there are Americans that are wrongfully detained or taken hostage abroad by hostile actors,’ he said. ‘It’s just raising this awareness of this issue, and that’s not to take away from anything else.’
Kai Li has been held in deplorable conditions since his arrest in China in September 2016 on espionage charges, which his family, attorneys, and US officials insist are false and politically motivated.
On Tuesday, Li’s son Harrison Li (above) told DailyMail.com that his family felt abandoned by the Biden administration and called for action to secure his father’s release
Pastor David Lin (left) and Texas businessman Mark Swidan (right) are the other two Americans who the US says are being wrongfully detained in China
Biden is seen meeting with Xi in 2022. They are expected to meet again on the sidelines of a summit in San Francisco next week
Li was born in Shanghai in 1962, and came to the US for study at age 27, later naturalizing to become a United States citizen. He opened several gas stations on Long Island, and later founded a company that imported and distributed solar technology to US aerospace firms.
He was visiting Shanghai to mark the one-year anniversary of his mother’s death when he was arrested upon arrival on state security charges.
After months in secret detention, Li was convicted in 2018 following a one-hour secret trial, and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
While his family still doesn’t know the exact nature of the charges against him, his attorney says that the ‘state secrets’ he is accused of stealing are freely available on the Chinese internet.
Li is being held in horrendous conditions in China’s Qingpu Prison, where Harrison says that for more than three years, his only contact with family was through heavily censored letters.
Now, Li is able to make two seven-minute phone calls each month, but the calls are recorded and monitored, restricting his ability to speak freely, Harrison said.
The other two Americans unjustly detained in China, Lin and Swidan, have been held there even longer that Li.
Swidan, a Texas businessman, has been detained since 2012, and has been sentenced to execution on a charge of drug trafficking.
Lin, a 68-year old Chinese-American pastor, has been imprisoned in China since 2006, when he was arrested on a visit to Beijing for having ‘illegal religious propaganda’.
He was later sentenced to life in prison on a charge of ‘contract fraud,’ though a sentence reduction means he could ostensibly be freed in 2030.
The US State Department’s office of the special presidential envoy on hostage affairs (SPEHA) has designated all three men — Li, Lin, and Swidan — as ‘wrongful detainees.’
In June, following a visit to Beijing, Blinken said the US and China were continuing to discuss the release of the three men.
‘I don’t want to get into the details, but we are very actively talking about that,’ Blinken said in an interview with CBS News.
Kai Li was visiting Shanghai to mark the one-year anniversary of his mother’s death when he was arrested upon arrival on state security charges
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on June 19
Blinken said the US was committed to continue to work on resolving all three cases.
‘I not only raised, but talked some length about the individual cases of the detained Americans,’ he said in the interview.
‘It (their release) would, regardless of anything else be a very important and positive development and we’re working intensely,’ Blinken said.
But on Tuesday, Harrison lamented the apparent lack of action from the Biden administration ahead of the president’s planned meeting with Xi.
He said that Blinken had held a direct Zoom call with his family after the Beijing trip and promised ‘substantive progress’ by November, but that there had been little visible progress since then.
‘What invariably seems to happen is people at the top just don’t see it, or don’t get to it, or it gets put on the back burner or, say a spy balloon comes and then interactions between the two countries get paused for months,’ he said.
Harrison said the years of waiting for news of his father’s release had taken a toll on the family.
‘We’ve been burned, not one too many times, but far too many times. So at this point, I think it’s dangerous to have any optimism at any point until we get the call that my dad is on the plane with US forces, out of Chinese airspace,’ he said.
‘Before that moment comes, I am so burned — just feel so burned that I just can’t give any optimism.’