Alleged human-smuggling mastermind 'Big Sister Ping' yesterday failed in her bid to have her fight against extradition to the United States heard before Hong Kong's highest court. The Court of Appeal - comprising Mr Justice Anthony Rogers, Mrs Justice Doreen Le Pichon and Mr Justice Frank Stock - refused Cheng Chui-ping, 52, leave to appeal to the Court of Final Appeal after a 25-minute hearing in which she represented herself. The decision virtually exhausted any further obstacles Cheng can throw in the way of the US attempt to extradite her to face human-smuggling charges arising from the 1993 Golden Venture tragedy. The freighter, packed with 286 illegal immigrants from Fuzhou, in Fujian, ran aground off the coast of New York City. Ten of the stowaways drowned while trying to reach the shore. According to an indictment brought before a Manhattan federal court in December 1994, Cheng had smuggled about 3,000 Fujianese to the US since 1984. American authorities had requested her extradition to face allegations of 'gross criminal conduct, universally deplored, international in ramifications'. Yesterday's ruling leaves Cheng with one final option - to appear before the Court of Final Appeal within 28 days and argue that it should hear her appeal. Deputy Principal Government Counsel Wayne Walsh said failing this last resort, steps would be made to surrender Cheng under an order made by Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa on May 28 last year. She would then be escorted back to the US in accordance with its extradition arrangements with the SAR, he said. Cheng mounted a costly legal challenge and engaged one of Hong Kong's top barristers in an effort to stop her extradition. She had previously claimed the chief executive was obliged to consider whether the US charges were subject to a time limit when he approved her extradition. But on September 10 this year, the Court of Appeal ruled the chief executive was under no such obligation. Yesterday, Cheng began her submission by quoting from a television series, Honourable Judge, which she told the court she watched on the mainland. 'In the execution of law, not only has he [the judge] to understand fully what the law says, but how the system deals with the cases and the general complexities of the case,' she said. Pleading her innocence, Cheng further claimed the FBI had misunderstood the case against her. She said she would love to go back to the US and return to her small business which was now being looked after by family and friends. 'But if I go back, I would like to go back with the proper status,' she said. Cheng also said the mainland's Public Security Bureau had frozen all her assets in her property agency company. After her submissions, Mr Justice Rogers refused Cheng's application on the basis that her arguments did not constitute a matter of great and general public importance.