Thursday, July 20, 2017

UM student detained in China over taxicab incident

Posted By on Thu, Jul 20, 2017 at 12:21 PM

A University of Montana senior was arrested in China on July 16 and is currently being detained.

Guthrie McLean was visiting his mother, Jennifer McLean, in Zhengzhou in the Hunan province when he was arrested following an altercation with a taxi driver in June.

Jennifer McLean said in an email that she was taking a taxi home late at night after a flight on June 10. McLean, who is deaf and communicates by reading lips and speaking softly, got nervous and texted Guthrie after her driver stopped to talk to some people on a street corner. When the taxi arrived outside the gate to McLean’s residence, which is overseen by a security guard, she gave the driver 100 yuan and a ride voucher for a 70 yuan fare. When he refused to give her change, McLean says, she tried to take her voucher back. The driver then “started screaming and pushing me really hard,” McLean says. The driver continued to attack her until she could back away long enough to call Guthrie.

According to Jennifer, Guthrie came running from the residence and pushed the driver to the ground. Guthrie yelled at the driver, but did not strike him. The interaction lasted about 30 seconds.

The McLeans returned to the gate and Guthrie, who is fluent in Mandarin, confronted the guard for failing to intervene.

On July 16, police came to Jennifer’s residence and arrested Guthrie. A letter to Jennifer from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing says police say the taxi driver sustained an injury to his knee.
click to enlarge Guthrie McLean, a senior at the University of Montana, was arrested in China after coming to his mother's aid during an altercation with a taxi driver. His mother, Jennifer, says Chinese police have asked her to pay as much as US$14,800 while Guthrie is detained. - PHOTO COURTESY JENNIFER MCLEAN
  • Photo courtesy Jennifer McLean
  • Guthrie McLean, a senior at the University of Montana, was arrested in China after coming to his mother's aid during an altercation with a taxi driver. His mother, Jennifer, says Chinese police have asked her to pay as much as US$14,800 while Guthrie is detained.

Jennifer says her son was arrested in the early afternoon, and police returned an hour later to take her in for questioning. She says the police initially asked for money—first the equivalent of US$14,800, and later $8,800.

“They were visibly disappointed when they learned I was not a woman of means,” Jennifer says. “My work supervisor came and explained my earnings to them.”

Jennifer says Guthrie’s rights as a prisoner, including the right to an interpreter for Jennifer, were denied by the police. Jennifer asked to speak to a supervisor and asked the police to contact the local foreign affairs office, but they refused, she says.

Jennifer left the interview room and was not allowed to return. She hasn’t seen her son since. She says police have relayed several messages to her saying that Guthrie is in distress and that she should pay the money.

Jennifer teaches sign language to Chinese children. Guthrie grew up in China from third grade, and came to school at UM in August 2015. Guthrie traveled to China on May 24.

On July 19, according to an email provided by Jennifer, Sen. Steve Daines became aware of Guthrie’s detainment after reading an article in the Missoulian. Jason Thielman, Daines’ chief of staff, said in the email that he had been assured by a Chinese official that Guthrie is safe.

Jennifer says she’s also made Sen. Jon Tester’s office aware of her son's case.

According to Thielman’s email, under the Privacy Act of 1974 the U.S. Embassy cannot discuss McLean's case with anyone, even family, without his written consent. On Thursday, July 20, an American officer visited Guthrie, obtained his consent, and then sent Jennifer an email, according to which Guthrie is physically and mentally healthy and sharing a cell with 21 people. He requested money for food and English reading materials. He sent a message to his mother that reads, “I love you. I am stressed out but otherwise OK. Please don’t worry too much and I hope you are getting some rest. I am eating the pork.”

The email says Chinese police have a week from McLean’s “formal detention notice” to provide evidence to a court and recommend whether charges be filed.

Tags: , , , ,

  • Email
  • Favorite
  • Print
Today | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun
Moscow Monday

Moscow Monday @ Montgomery Distillery

Mondays, 12 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

© 2017 Missoula News/Independent Publishing | Powered by Foundation