November 14, 2017 12:13 GMT by nytimes.com

Trump Asks Xi for Help on U.C.L.A. Players Arrested in China

Trump Asks Xi for Help on U.C.L.A. Players Arrested in China

The American president appealed to his Chinese counterpart in the case of the three members of a university basketball team accused of shoplifting.

MANILA — President Trump confirmed on Tuesday that he had appealed to President Xi Jinping of China on behalf of three basketball players from the University of California, Los Angeles, who were arrested last week in Hangzhou, China, on suspicion of shoplifting.

“I had a great conversation with President Xi,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he was leaving the Philippines after a 12-day trip to Asia. “What they did was unfortunate. You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences. They do not play games.”

In China, where the justice system has a very high conviction rate, theft can bring punishment ranging from a few days to years in prison.

Mr. Trump said he hoped the Chinese president would help the players: LiAngelo Ball, a freshman guard; and Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, both freshman forwards. He emphasized that it was a “very, very rough situation, with what happened to them.”

The three men were arrested this past Tuesday, accused of stealing designer sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to their hotel in Hangzhou, in eastern China, where they were planning to play in a tournament. They were released on bail last Wednesday but were reportedly confined to the hotel.

Mr. Trump has made much of his personal rapport with Mr. Xi, who hosted a lavish state visit last week for the president in Beijing. The two leaders met again at an economic summit meeting on Sunday in Vietnam, where Mr. Trump raised the case.

“He’s been terrific,” the president said. “President Xi has been terrific on that subject.”

Mr. Trump, who said he had learned of the case only at the weekend, said he hoped the players would be able to return to the United States soon. U.C.L.A. said in a statement that it was aware of the situation and was cooperating with the local authorities.

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