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Newsline: Embassy officials visit US student detained in China over row with taxi driver

US embassy officials visited the American university student detained in China over an altercation with a taxi driver, as family and friends continue to lobby for his release. Guthrie McLean, a 25-year-old student at the University of Montana, is being held at a detention centre in Zhengzhou, Henan province. He was visited by officials from the US consulate in Wuhan, capital of Hunan, according to the office of Montana Senator Jon Tester. The officials confirmed that McLean had no “physical or mental health concerns” and had been given access to legal resources, the office said in a statement. His mother, Jennifer McLean, however, told the Associated Press: “Fine is a bit of an overstatement. He is enduring.” McLean was detained by police and charged with intentional injury after becoming involved in a dispute between his mother and a taxi driver on June 10. According to Tom Mitchell, a long-time family friend and Beijing bureau chief for the Financial Times, the driver refused to give Mrs McLean, who is deaf and teaches sign language in China, 30 yuan in change after driving her to her home in Zhengzhou. In the ensuing argument, the driver threw a 10 yuan note at the woman and things “escalated from there”. The driver then tried to snatch Mrs McLean’s bags and was “pushing her around” when her son came out from the house to see what was going on. He pulled the driver off his mother and pushed him to the ground, Mitchell said. The driver claimed he hurt his knee in the altercation, for which police demanded 100,000 yuan (US$14,800) in compensation from McLean. They later lowered the sum to 50,000 yuan. Two senators from Montana have been working with government officials from China and the US in a bid to reunite the McLeans. Senator Steve Daines visited Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the US, on Thursday to “urge a prompt resolution” to Guthrie’s case, while working with US ambassador to China Terry Branstad.



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