How Chinese Consulate closure may affect Houston designer

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The mother of a Houston designer, who has been held in China for almost eight years, waits to see how the closing of the Chinese Consulate in Houston might affect him.

Mark Swidan was sentenced to death in April 2019 after he was found guilty of trafficking and manufacturing drugs. He had been detained since 2012. His death sentence includes a two-year reprieve.

His mother, Katherine Swidan, already lives in constant worry. The news about the Houston's Chinese Consulate in Houston closing does not make it better.

"The ramifications of that, I don't know what they're planning and it scares me," she said.

The U.S. State Department ordered the Consulate closed by Friday to protect "American intellectual property and the private information of its citizens," said a spokeswoman.

SEE RELATED STORY: What Chinese Consul General said about consulate closure

A U-Haul truck sat outside the building all day Wednesday, as movement picked up in the evening. ABC13 watched as people loaded up cars with boxes and drove off. The move-out comes a day after documents were burned inside the courtyard, which the Chinese Consul General himself confirmed.

SEE RELATED STORY: Documents burned on the grounds of the Chinese Consulate in Houston

Now, experts say, it's China's move.

"This is a big escalation in the conflict with China and it has a lot of repercussions," Steven Lewis, a China fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute said. "Most immediately, it means the Chinese will retaliate. Since in diplomacy, it's very much tit-for-tat , they'll very likely close a consulate in China."

And that is where Katherine is concerned. While she is still hopeful the Trump Administration can work out her son's release, his only human connection comes from the nearby US Consulate General in Guangzhou.

"I know if they shut the embassy in Guangzhou, it will be bad. Mark won't have anyone to see him. Take him things, money, anything. Mark will have no one on his side," his mother said.

Mark went to China in 2012 to look for home flooring and fixtures, according to his mother.

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