(Reuters) - The three UCLA men’s basketball players arrested in China for allegedly shoplifting a day before U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit cannot leave their hotel until the end of the legal process, which could last months, ESPN reported on Wednesday.
Police are requiring the University of California, Los Angeles, players to remain at their luxury Hangzhou hotel until the legal process is done, which could last days, weeks or even months, ESPN reported, citing unnamed sources.
The three students, freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, were arrested on Tuesday, according to several media reports. Ball is the younger brother of National Basketball Association rookie Lonzo Ball of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The U.S. State Department and UCLA Athletics officials declined to address how long legal proceedings might take.
A U.S. State Department official said the department was aware of reports of three American citizens arrested in China and stood ready to provide assistance but had no further comment due to privacy considerations.
The Chinese government reported the incident to U.S. officials, Chinese foreign ministry officials previously said.
Chinese authorities have up to 37 days to decide whether to pursue official approval for an arrest, Margaret Lewis, a law professor at Seton Hall University in New Jersey who researches China’s legal system, told the Los Angeles Times.
An arrest would prompt an investigation that could take up to two additional months before prosecutors bring formal charges, Lewis told the newspaper.
In China, the conviction rate is more than 99 percent and punishment would be based on many factors, including merchandise value, the players’ cooperation and if they appeared repentant, Lewis told the newspaper.
The players were questioned about stealing from a Louis Vuitton store and released on bail on Wednesday, ESPN reported.
Chinese President Xi Jinping led Trump on a private tour of the Forbidden City to kick off his visit on Wednesday.
Reached by telephone at his hotel on Wednesday, Ball declined to comment. In a video posted Wednesday on Twitter by ESPN writer Arash Markazi, LaVar Ball said his son LiAngelo would be fine.
The players will not play in Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech, UCLA Athletics spokeswoman Shana Wilson said.
The UCLA team arrived in China on Sunday and then traveled to Hangzhou, about three hours by bus from Shanghai, to visit the campus of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, sponsor of the game in China.
Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler