Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai denied bail on fraud charge

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In this Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020 photo, Jimmy Lai arrives at a court in Hong Kong. Jimmy Lai, the pro-democracy Hong Kong media tycoon who was arrested during a crackdown on dissent was charged Wednesday Dec. 2, 2020, with fraud but no national security offenses, two newspapers reported. Jimmy Lai of Next Digital, which owns the Apple Daily newspaper, was among 10 people arrested Aug. 10 on what police said was suspicion of violating a national security law and collusion with a foreign country. Lai, 71, was later released on bail but police raided his company's offices in October. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

HONG KONG – Outspoken Hong Kong pro-democracy advocate and media tycoon Jimmy Lai was refused bail on Thursday on 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 Aug. 10 on what police said was suspicion of violating a national security law and collusion with a foreign country.

Lai, 73, was later released on bail but police raided his company’s offices in October and took away documents.

On Wednesday, Lai and two Next Digital executives were charged with fraud over accusations that they violated lease terms for Next Digital office space.

Lai appeared in court Thursday and was denied bail. His case has been adjourned till April 16.

Hong Kong police said in a statement Wednesday that it had arrested three men on charges of fraud, without naming them. It also said that one of them had been suspected of violating the national security law, and that it 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 center.