What We Know About Basketball Star Jeff Harper's 9 Month Detention In China

Detainment in China is a complicated hot button issue. As CNN explains, many would-be foreign travelers are concerned about the prospect of being detained in China, which might influence whether they go to the country or not. And while detainment for sometimes seemingly arbitrary offenses is scary, it is important to keep the numbers in mind before letting paranoia sink in. As reported by CNN, there have been less than 60 cases of foreigners being detained in China from 2009 to 2020, which means that odds of detainment are not particularly high for the average person. 

Still, some unfortunate people are detained. This was the case with basketball player Jeff Harper. As reported by the Des Moines Register, Harper was detained in China from January to September of 2020. He was finally released and is now back home in the U.S. with his family. Some of the details are not entirely public, but Harper had been accused of "causing death with negligence."

How did Jeff Harper get detained in China?

China's law system can seem complicated at first, but much of it is easily explained. Some background information on how Chinese law operates can help one to understand Harper's detainment. As the Government of Canada explains, Chinese citizens aren't the only ones subject to the country's laws, as foreigners can also be arrested and prosecuted similarly. Detainment made by a police officer can last 37 days before a person is officially charged with a crime. After that point, it can take a long 13.5 months before your case is examined in a Chinese court of law. 

As the Des Moines Register says, Harper was in Shenzhen, China to snag a potential international basketball contract. The basketball player had studied graphic design in college, and was, at the time, a promising young basketball player. Misfortune struck when Harper intervened between a woman being assaulted by another man. Harper said he pushed the man and the man ran off. For reasons not entirely known, the alleged assaulter died five hours later in the hospital, and Harper was detained for potential negligent homicide. 

Harper is facing a lawsuit from the family of the victim

Jeff Harper's ordeal was terrible, but thankfully it could have been far worse. The basketball star was released in September of 2020, as Des Moines Register reports. He's also done with basketball, reportedly, and would prefer to spend time with his family and mentor kids. As Harper told the Des Moines Register, his time in detainment was apparently not as awful as it could have been. "They treated me well," Harper told Des Moines Register, having eaten rice-based meals while detained. As of now, not a lot of details about the incident itself have come to light.

The family of the man who Harper says assaulted the woman sought retribution from Harper for his actions, $300,000 dollars to be exact (via Bleacher Report). They are currently pursuing a civil suit against the basketball player. This, however, does not mean that Harper has to go back to China or that he will be processed again. Details on where the suit will go are scant, as of now.