American student arrested in China has been freed, senator says

Chinese authorities have dropped charges against an American college student who was arrested and detained in the Asian nation a week ago after reportedly injuring a taxi driver who was roughing up his mother in a fare dispute, a U.S. lawmaker said Sunday. 

Guthrie McLean, a University of Montana senior, was released from a detention center in the central China city of Zhengzhou early Monday local time, according to Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana. 

“Prayer’s answered. Guthrie’s home,” the 25-year-old student’s mother, Jennifer McLean, wrote in an email to Daines’ office. 

Jennifer McLean confirmed her son’s release in an email to The Associated Press. She provided no further information. 

Jennifer McLean has been teaching in Zhengzhou, where her son was visiting her this summer. 

His release followed days of negotiations between U.S. officials and Chinese authorities. Details on the deal that led to Guthrie McLean’s release were not immediately disclosed. 

Daines and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, had argued McLean’s detention was unjustified because he was defending his mother, who is deaf, when he reportedly pushed the taxi driver to the ground during a June 10 altercation in Zhengzhou. 

“As a parent, there is nothing more nerve-wracking than being concerned about your child’s safety,” Tester said Sunday in a statement. “I am overjoyed that Guthrie is safe and sound and will be reunited with his mother. This really is a testament to what can be accomplished when we turn up the heat and hold government accountable.”

The college student majoring in East Asian studies was detained five weeks later, on July 16, on charges of intentional injury. 

Jennifer McLean had alleged that police demanded the equivalent of $7,400 in compensation from the family and threatened to imprison her son for up to three years if they refused to pay. 

Daines said the family did not pay that amount, but he declined to comment further. 

“We were able to come to an agreement that worked for everybody, most importantly for Guthrie and for Jennifer, his mother,” Daines said in a conference call with reporters. 

Local police in China have declined to comment on the case. 

Guthrie McLean has been a student at the University of Montana in Missoula for about two years and worked for the past year in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures, his boss, Olivia White, has said. 

He largely grew up in China after living in Missoula as a young child while his mother was studying at the university, White said.