President Trump said Tuesday that he had productive conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week about the three American college basketball players who were caught shoplifting in Hangzhou and detained last week.
"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. What they did was unfortunate," Trump told reporters on Air Force One before departing the Philippines on the way back to the U.S. "You know, you're talking about very long prison sentences. They do not play games."
Three University of California Los Angeles players — LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill — had traveled with their team to China to play a season opening game in Shanghai. The three were arrested for allegedly attempting to steal sunglasses, and are believed to be detained in their hotel.
Trump had already noted that he brought up the subject of the detained players with Xi, but he delved into greater detail on Tuesday, expressing optimism that the three men could avoid prison sentences and return home soon.
"He was terrific, and they're working on it right now. And hopefully everything is going to work out," Trump said of his Chinese counterpart. "And I know they're very grateful because they were told exactly what happened.
"But it's a very, very rough situation with what happened to them," Trump added. "President Xi has been terrific on that subject. But that was not a good subject. That was not something that should have happened."
Asked if he expects to see the three UCLA players back in the U.S. soon, Trump said, "I hope so."