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BEIJING – President Donald Trump said Tuesday he's hopeful that three UCLA basketball players detained in China on suspicion of shoplifting will be allowed to return home soon.
Trump said he had a long conversation on the matter with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
"They're working on it right now," Trump told reporters in the Philippines as he prepared to return to Washington after a nearly two-week visit to Asia that included an earlier stop in Beijing. "He's been terrific," Trump said, in an apparent reference to Xi.
Asked about the case Tuesday, China's foreign ministry said it had no additional comment. On Monday, ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that three American men were being investigated in the eastern city of Hangzhou for alleged theft and that China and the U.S. were in contact over the matter.
"China will handle this case in accordance with law and protect the lawful rights and interests of the people involved," Geng said.
Chinese authorities detained the UCLA freshmen for questioning about allegations of shoplifting before a recent game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai. The UCLA team returned to the U.S. without them on Saturday.
The Los Angeles Times has identified the players as Cody Riley, Jalen Hill and LiAngelo Ball — the brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball.
Citing a source with firsthand knowledge of the investigation, sports channel ESPN last week reported the players could be Hangzhou for "a week or two" while the situation is resolved. The source told ESPN there is surveillance footage of the players shoplifting from three stores inside a high-end retail center.