November 16, 2017 / 2:10 PM / a year ago

Trump acknowledges thanks from UCLA players released from China

UCLA basketball players Cody Riley, LiAngelo Ball, and Jalen Hill speak at a press conference at UCLA after flying back from China where they were detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday acknowledged the thanks he received from three UCLA basketball players who had been detained in China for shoplifting and were released after he raised the case with his Chinese counterpart.

The players - LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill - have admitted to stealing items from three stores during a team trip to China. Before they thanked Trump on Wednesday for intervening with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Republican president had wondered whether they would express gratitude.

“To the three UCLA basketball players I say: You’re welcome, go out and give a big Thank You to President Xi Jinping of China who made your release possible and, HAVE A GREAT LIFE!” Trump said in a tweet.

“Be careful, there are many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life!”

After the players returned from China on Tuesday, Trump tweeted: “Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!”

The trio, all freshmen, have been suspended indefinitely from the University of California, Los Angeles, basketball team.

They had faced charges after police took them in for questioning in the Chinese city of Hangzhou on Nov. 7 over allegations of shoplifting at a Louis Vuitton store.

Their team had been in China for a game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai on Saturday, which UCLA won 63-60. The teams had traveled to Hangzhou earlier in the week.

Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Lisa Von Ahn

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