BILLINGS, Mont. – The mother of an American college student arrested in central China following an altercation with a taxi driver five weeks earlier said police are demanding the equivalent of a $7,400 “ransom” for his release.
Jennifer McLean has not been allowed to see or communicate with her 25-year-old son, Guthrie, since his Sunday arrest on charges of intentional injury, she said Thursday in an email to the Associated Press.
During a June 10 fare dispute, Guthrie McLean pushed the taxi driver to the ground because the driver was roughing up his mother, who is hearing impaired, according to family friend Tom Mitchell, the Beijing bureau chief for the Financial Times.
It’s unclear why McLean was not arrested until weeks later. The Zhengzhou municipal public security bureau, when contacted by The Associated Press, said it does not take inquiries about individual cases.
Jennifer McLean told the AP her son’s actions were justified because the taxi driver was hurting her.
“He would not have ceased had my son not intervened,” McLean said.
Offices from the U.S. Consulate in the provincial capital city Wuhan spoke with the University of Montana student Thursday at a detention center in the city of Zhengzhou. He reported no physical or mental health concerns, officials said.
“Fine is a bit of an overstatement. He is enduring,” Jennifer McLean said.
Montana’s U.S. senators, Democrat Jon Tester and Republican Steve Daines, called for Guthrie McLean’s quick release and said they were pressing the matter with U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad in Beijing.
The U.S. State Department confirmed the basic details of the case and said it was monitoring the situation, but declined further comment.
Jennifer McLean has been teaching in Zhengzhou, where Guthrie visited her this summer.
The altercation occurred after a cab driver refused to give her about $5 in change upon returning to her residence, Mitchell said. After the driver “started to rough up Jennifer,” Guthrie came out and pushed the man to the ground, he said.
Police arrived at the residence on Sunday, took Guthrie away and demanded he pay $14,800 in compensation for injuries sustained by the driver, Mitchell and Jennifer McLean said. The price has since dropped to $7,400, she said.
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