Three young men who play basketball for UCLA were on a team visit to China earlier this month when they were arrested for shoplifting. President Trump happened to be landing in China at the same time and intervened on their behalf.

The New York Times reports:

How Trump Helped Liberate U.C.L.A. ‘Knuckleheads’ From China

President Trump found out about the great U.C.L.A.-China basketball episode of 2017 when members of his staff saw it on CNN just before Mr. Trump’s dinner with the president of China in Beijing last week.

They learned that three American college basketball players — representing a storied sports program visiting China for an early-season game sponsored by one of China’s largest companies — had been arrested on Nov. 8, accused of stealing designer sunglasses at a high-end shopping mall.

The alleged offense was hardly life or death. But what begun as a simple accusation of celebrity shoplifting threatened to escalate into a full-blown international incident just as Mr. Trump arrived in China on a 12-day mission through Asia, his first foreign trip to the region.

“These are law and order guys; they have pretty swift justice,” John Kelly, the president’s chief of staff, said of the Chinese authorities in a telephone interview later. “An awful lot of American kids don’t realize that the kinds of things that in United States society we tolerate with a slap on the wrist, a lot of countries they take very seriously.”

In other cases, detained Americans have become geopolitical pawns, often trapped in a kind of legal limbo for months or years.

And in a few instances, the outcome has been horrific, as in the case of Otto Warmbier, an American student in North Korea who was tortured and later died after being detained on charges that he tried to steal a poster from his hotel.

But just as concern deepened about the fate of the three young athletes in China, their detention abruptly ended, aided, it seems, by Mr. Trump’s direct intervention with the country’s president, Xi Jinping.

In typical Trump fashion, he tweeted about the incident:

Yesterday at a press conference, the players thanked Trump and others. The Washington Free Beacon reports:

The players each spoke in turn, all stating they regretted their actions and apologizing. Riley sighed deeply after mentioning Trump.

“To President Trump and the United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf. We really appreciate you helping us out,” he said before sighing.

Ball said he had exercised poor judgment and said he had been raised better than his actions showed.

“I would also like to thank President Trump and the United States government for the help that they provided as well,” Ball said.

Watch the video below:

These students are right to thank Trump. They could have languished in a Chinese jail for years if it wasn’t for his intervention.

Featured image via YouTube.