Outspoken Hong Kong pro-democracy advocate and media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been refused bail a fraud charge amid a growing crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous city.
Jimmy Lai of Next Digital, which publishes the Apple Daily newspaper, was among 10 people arrested on August 10 on what police said was suspicion of violating a national security law and collusion with a foreign country.
Mr Lai, 73, was later released on bail but police raided his company’s offices in October and seized documents.
On Wednesday, Mr Lai and two Next Digital executives were charged with fraud over accusations that they violated lease terms for Next Digital office space.
Mr Lai appeared in court Thursday and was denied bail.
His case has been adjourned till April 16.
Hong Kong police said in a statement on Wednesday they had arrested three men on charges of fraud, without naming them. It also said one of the men had been suspected of violating the national security law, and that this was still under investigation.
Beijing imposed the national security law in response to protests in Hong Kong that began in June, 2019, over a proposed extradition law and expanded to include demands for greater democracy in the former British colony.
The sweeping legislation prompted more public protests and led to complaints that Beijing is violating the autonomy promised to Hong Kong when it returned to China, and damaging its status as a business centre.
Apple Daily criticised the law on its front page on July 1, calling it the “final nail in the coffin” of the territory’s autonomy.
The British government had sharply criticised Lai’s August arrest and said the security law was being used to crush dissent.