The man suspected of killing his two nephews in Arcadia last week and fleeing to Hong Kong appeared in court in the Chinese territory Monday and said he was eager to return to the United States as soon as possible to clear his name.
American officials have initiated an extradition request for Deyun Shi, 44, who arrived in Hong Kong on Saturday on a flight from Los Angeles and was taken into police custody.
At Monday's hearing, Shi – who apparently dismissed his Hong Kong attorney and spoke for himself during the proceedings – told Chief Magistrate Clement Lee he was not running away from the United States.
"The allegations are not true. I don't plan to give a rebuttal here, but I believe I'll restore the truth in the U.S. with supporting evidence," Shi said. "That's why I'd like to go back as soon as possible."
As for the flight Saturday, "I came through a legitimate route in order to handle my business matters in Shenzhen," added Shi, referring to the mainland city of 18 million people a subway ride from Hong Kong.
Shi requested to be freed on bail while the extradition process moves forward. "I can offer a high amount of bail money. The company jointly owned by me and my wife in the U.S. is worth $20 [million] to $30 million," Shi asserted.
Lee denied Shi's request to be released on bail, noting that Shi is a citizen of mainland China with no "appreciable ties" to Hong Kong. "There's no special circumstance to justify bail," the judge said. "And you have a high risk of absconding."
Shi is expected to appear back in court Feb. 1 to appeal the bail decision. The next hearing on the extradition proceedings is set for Feb. 11.
Anthea Li, deputy principal government counsel with Hong Kong's Department of Justice, which is responsible for handling Shi's case, said the Hong Kong government so far has received only a provisional arrest document from U.S. authorities. Hong Kong's government needs a full surrender request to execute the extradition in accordance with a 1997 treaty.
"Right now it's still too premature" for Hong Kong authorities to make any decision, she told reporters at the court. The U.S. has 60 days to submit the full request.
Shi apparently moved to Southern California in 2014 with his wife and two children. Recently, Shi's wife had told him she wanted a divorce.
Shi had moved out of his family's La Cañada Flintridge home but broke into the residence Thursday night and attacked his wife with a wood-cutting tool, said Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Their 15-year-old son intervened, and Shi left.
Investigators believe Shi later drove to his wife's brother's town house in the 400 block of Fairview Avenue in Arcadia where his two nephews, aged 15 and 16, lived with their parents. Police were unsure when Shi got to the residence. The teenagers were found by their mother on Friday. The sheriff's department said both teens suffered blunt-force trauma to their torsos and were pronounced dead at the scene.
At Monday's hearing, the diminutive Shi appeared calm and wore a pressed charcoal gray suit, a black shirt and wire-framed glasses. He was flanked by a police officer and stood behind stainless steel bars.
Hong Kong is a former British territory that returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and now is a "semi-autonomous" territory with its own legal system apart from mainland China's.
Most Hong Kong court cases are heard in English or Cantonese; Shi requested that his be conducted in Mandarin. When addressing the court, he spoke softly to the court interpreter, his head slightly bowed and his hands clasped.
About 10:30 a.m., an hour before the hearing began, Shi's lawyer, Christopher Morley, left the courthouse. "He's going to represent himself," Morley said, without commenting further. Morley's office did not reply to repeated requests for comment.
When the hearing resumed around 12:50 p.m., after some documents were interpreted for Shi, the judge asked him: "The first issue is: Whether you consent to the surrender, or not. Do you?"
"I consent, as soon as possible," said Shi, speaking through the court interpreter.
Later, though, Shi showed some hesitation and asked the judge some questions, including about the possibility of facing a life sentence in the United States.
"If you have legal questions, you should consult a lawyer," said Lee, who also reminded Shi he could seek the assistance of a public defender.
After asking Shi to confirm his consent, Lee added: "Your consent must be unconditional. Do you understand?"
"Yes," said Shi.
Even if Shi is willing to return to the U.S. immediately, a full surrender request is required to satisfy the 1997 extradition treaty between the U.S. and Hong Kong.
Jonathan Close, the Interpol liaison officer with the Hong Kong police, said the documents contained in the request must be able "to show the judge there's sufficient evidence to expedite him to trial."
"If, and when, the [Hong Kong] chief executive signs the extradition order, U.S. Marshals can take him back in 30 days," Close said.
Barry Greenhalgh, an Encino attorney working on Shi's behalf, said that Shi would likely remain in Hong Kong for up to eight weeks as the U.S. files the necessary paperwork and the Hong Kong government signs off on it.
"The documents have actually been prepared, and they'll be available very soon," he said by phone Sunday night from Los Angeles.
One question hanging over the extradition process is whether prosecutors in L.A. would seek the death penalty. Hong Kong has no death penalty, and it would be highly unlikely authorities in the territory would extradite a suspect without some assurances he would not face capital punishment.
Greenhalgh said he believed L.A. prosecutors had already determined over the weekend that they would not seek the death penalty in the case.
Law is a special correspondent. Staff writers Makinen and Kaiman reported from Beijing.
Follow @JulieMakLAT for news from China