'Very ungrateful!' Trump says he should have left UCLA players in Chinese jail

Tuesday, 21 November 2017, 06:56:32 PM. Donald Trump says he should have left three American basketball players in jail in China.

A composite image of the UCLA basketball players and Donald Trump. Photo: Mr Trump (R) slammed the UCLA players last week for not saying thank you, which they did shortly after. (Reuters)

President Donald Trump says he should have left three American basketball players who had been detained in China on suspicion of shoplifting in jail, after the father of one of the players questioned the President's role in their release.

"Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal," Mr Trump wrote.

"I should have left them in jail!"

He later continued, tweeting that "shoplifting is a very big deal in China, as it should be (5-10 years in jail), but not to father LaVa".

"Should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead.

"China told them why they were released. Very ungrateful!"

The three players from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) apologised last week and thanked Mr Trump for helping secure their release by raising the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit.

But over the weekend LaVar Ball — the father of LiAngelo Ball — downplayed Mr Trump's involvement in the release.

External Link: Trump says he should've left UCLA players in jail

"Don't tell me nothing," he said on TV network ESPN.

"Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out."

The White House declined to comment on the President's tweet.

Mr Trump, while finishing up a 12-day, five-nation trip to Asia, said he had sought the help of Chinese President Xi Jinping in the case.

"What they did was unfortunate," Mr Trump told reporters last week, while describing Mr Xi's response as "terrific".

'How can Trump be so small?': Democrat critic

UCLA players Cody Riley, LiAngelo Ball, and Jalen Hill apologised at a press conference. (Photo: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson) Video: UCLA players Cody Riley, LiAngelo Ball, and Jalen Hill apologised at a press conference. (Photo: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson) (ABC News)

The three players — Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill — admitted to stealing items from three stores during a team trip to China.

Just hours before they thanked Mr Trump last week for intervening, the US President slammed the players on Twitter and wondered whether they would express gratitude to him.

"Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump?" Mr Trump tweeted last week.

"They were headed for 10 years in jail!"

Mr Trump's latest remarks that he should have left the players in jail provoked strong reactions on Twitter, including from a Democratic congressman who accused the president of personal pettiness.

"The President would have left American students in a foreign jail because their families didn't lavish sufficient praise on him," Democrat Adam Schiff wrote on Twitter.

"How can someone in such a big office be so small?"

Reuters

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