President Trump has asked for Chinese President Xi's help for three basketball players. The trio are detained in China, pending legal proceedings.

UCLA basketball players, Liangelo Ball, (L)  and Cody Riley are still in China with the other player Jalen Hill as the investigation still continues over an alleged shoplifting case in a Louis Vuitton store.
UCLA basketball players, Liangelo Ball, (L) and Cody Riley are still in China with the other player Jalen Hill as the investigation still continues over an alleged shoplifting case in a Louis Vuitton store. (AP)

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that he sought the help of Chinese President Xi Jinping in the case of three UCLA basketball players, LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, detained in China on suspicion of shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store last week.

"What they did was unfortunate," Trump told reporters in Manila.

He said the players could have faced long prison sentences, and described Xi's response as "terrific."

Trump had raised the issue with Xi during a dinner held during the US leader's November 8-10 state visit to Beijing. 

Trump was in the Philippines capital for a summit of Asian leaders.

"We hope everything works out," Trump said, adding that he hoped the players could come home soon.

Asked about the players and Trump's discussing the issue with Xi, China Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing in Beijing: "Until now, I have not received any update, so I am unable to provide any further information."

The three basketball players from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) were detained by police on November 7 in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou over allegations of shoplifting in a Louis Vuitton store and were not on the team's return flight to the United States on Saturday.

According to a senior White House official, the players had so far been given relatively light treatment as a result of Trump's intervention.

"It's in large part because the president brought it up," the official said.

Jane Hill (L) is one of the three UCLA basketball players who has been accused of shoplifting in a Louis Vuitton store in China.
Jane Hill (L) is one of the three UCLA basketball players who has been accused of shoplifting in a Louis Vuitton store in China. (Reuters)

The UCLA team had been in China for a game against Georgia Tech in Shanghai on Saturday, which UCLA won 63-60. 

The teams had travelled to Hangzhou earlier in the week to visit the headquarters of the game's sponsor, Chinese tech giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

The three students were released early on Wednesday, but are barred from leaving China and confined to a luxury hotel in Hangzhou pending legal proceedings.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies