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Beijing — Police in central China have arrested an American college student on charges of intentional injury following an altercation with a taxi driver, a family friend said Thursday.

Guthrie McLean was formally arrested in the city of Zhengzhou earlier this week, said Tom Mitchell, Beijing bureau chief for the Financial Times who has known the University of Montana student since 2001.

McLean was trying to protect his mother from a local taxi driver in a dispute that took place on June 10, Mitchell said.

A U.S. official was able to visit McLean in detention on Thursday, he said.

The Zhengzhou municipal public security bureau, when contacted by The Associated Press, said it does not take inquiries about individual cases. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing referred questions to spokesmen in Washington.

McLean’s mother, Jennifer, who is hearing impaired, has been teaching in Zhengzhou, where Guthrie visited her this summer.

The altercation occurred after a cab driver refused to give her 30 yuan (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 100,000 yuan ($14,800) in compensation for injuries sustained by the driver, Mitchell said. The price has since dropped to 60,000 yuan ($8,900), he said.

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