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Trump: Will UCLA Players Thank Me For Saving Them From Chinese Prison?

UCLA basketball player LiAngelo Ball arrives at LAX after flying back from China where he was detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy NicholsonUCLA basketball player LiAngelo Ball arrives at LAX after flying back from China where he was detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson - RC110A9E2700

President Donald Trump asked on Twitter Wednesday whether or not the UCLA basketball players he saved from a Chinese prison will express gratitude for his efforts to secure their freedom.

UCLA players LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were arrested in China on charges of stealing from a Louis Vuitton store near their hotel in Hangzhou. For their alleged crimes, the players were reportedly facing up to ten years in Chinese prison, but Trump intervened on their behalf.

During his tour of Asia, Trump brought up the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who promised to look into the situation. The Chinese leader assured Trump the three players would be “treated fairly and expeditiously.” The three players were freed Tuesday. (RELATED: UCLA Basketball Players Freed By China After Trump Intervenes)

Trump now wants to know if they are grateful for their freedom.

Had the president not intervened, the three players might have found themselves in hot water.

“I would say they could be in quite a bit of trouble if they have solid proof that they shoplifted,” William Nee, a Hong Kong-based researcher of the Chinese court system for Amnesty International, told Yahoo Sports prior to their release, adding, “It will depend on whether their lawyers, the university, or the U.S. consulate can advocate and negotiate on their behalf.”

“What they did was unfortunate. You know, you’re talking about very long prison sentences. They do not play games,” Trump said of the Chinese prison system aboard Air Force One on his way back to the U.S. from his five-nation tour of Asia.

When the players returned home Tuesday, they did not offer comments on their release.

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Ryan Pickrell
the authorRyan Pickrell
Holds a PhD in International Relations, fluent in Mandarin Chinese, reports on China and the Asia Pacific.

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