Three UCLA basketball players who were arrested last week for allegedly trying to steal sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton boutique in Hangzhou were released and flew back home Tuesday after President Donald Trump intervened on their behalf.
“UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were seen late Tuesday at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport checking into a Delta flight bound for Los Angeles, airline staff said,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
Note that time in Chinese runs roughly 12 hours ahead of time in the United States, meaning it was Tuesday morning in the U.S. when the boys departed.
This stunning turnaround occurred shortly after Trump revealed that he had discussed the three boys’ situation with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his trip to China a couple days earlier.
“The basketball players, by the way — I know a lot of people are asking — I will tell you, when I heard about it two days ago, I had a great conversation with President Xi,” he said early Tuesday morning, according to Politico.
“What they did was unfortunate,” he added. “You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences. They do not play games.”
While preparing for his return home Monday after a nearly two-week trip in Asia, the president said at the time that his administration was “working on it.”
“Hopefully everything is going to work out,” he added.
Very luckily for the three kids, it did. I wrote “very luckily” because Trump hadn’t been kidding about the Chinese not playing games.
The players had originally been facing time in prison, as noted last week by Yahoo News: “If standard practices are applied, the three UCLA basketball players … arrested Tuesday in mainland China under suspicion of shoplifting face between three and 10 years in prison if convicted.”
Yahoo News likewise noted that most defendants must wait 30 to 37 days before even being officially indicted. Moreover, Chinese prosecutors enjoy a 99.2 percent conviction rate.
Had Trump not intervened, only God knows what might have happened.
That said, I wonder whether former President Barack Obama would have intervened had this occurred during his presidency. Given how he handled the conviction and imprisonment of Otto Warmbier last year by North Korea, I suspect not.
Warmbier was finally released and sent home this past summer — after Trump took office in January, I might add — but in a comatose state. He died shortly after returning to the states.
Ball, Hill and Riley certainly wouldn’t have been as mistreated had they been convicted by the Chinese, but still … I’m glad they’re home, and I’m sure their parents and fans are as well.
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