MANILA, Nov 14 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump sought the help of Chinese President Xi Jinping in the case of three UCLA basketball players detained in China on suspicion of shoplifting last week, said a senior White House official.
Trump raised the issue with Xi during a dinner held during the U.S. leader’s Nov. 8-10 state visit to Beijing, said the official, who spoke to Reuters in Manila. Trump is currently in the Philippines capital for a summit of Asian leaders.
The three UCLA men’s basketball players were detained by police in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou over allegations of shoplifting and were not on the team’s return flight to the United States on Saturday, ESPN reported.
According to the White House official, Xi said he would be helpful and look into the matter. The official said the players had so far been given relatively light treatment as a result of Trump’s intervention.
“It’s in large part because the president brought it up,” the official said.
The UCLA team had been in China for the season opener against Georgia Tech in Shanghai on Saturday, which UCLA won 63-60. The teams had travelled to Hangzhou earlier in the week to visit the headquarters of the game’s sponsor, Chinese tech giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.
The three students - freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill - were taken in for questioning by police about alleged shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store during the Hangzhou visit.
They were released early on Wednesday, but are barred from leaving China and confined to a luxury hotel in Hangzhou pending legal proceedings, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. (Reporting by Steve Holland in Manila; Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)