HONG KONG––Media mogul Jimmy Lai faces months in jail after a Hong Kong court on Thursday denied him bail while awaiting trial on a fraud charge, the latest in a procession of China critics to be put behind bars.
Police on Wednesday charged Mr. Lai and two aides with fraud related to the lease of a property, about three months after a high-profile raid involving national-security police on the offices of his pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily.
Mr. Lai has long been a target of Chinese officials for his rhetoric against Beijing. Prosecutors said the national-security investigation is continuing and opposed bail for the 73-year-old, according to local media. Magistrate Victor So Wai-tak declined bail while setting the next court appearance for April 16, meaning Mr. Lai will be held for 4½ months in prison. Cheung Kim-hung, the chief executive of Apple Daily parent Next Digital, said Mr. Lai will appeal.
The decision comes a day after Joshua Wong, a leading face of Hong Kong’s protest movement, was sentenced to more than a year in prison for inciting and organizing a demonstration last year. Fellow activists Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam were also given prison sentences.
The indictment against Mr. Lai and Next Digital senior executives Chow Tat-kuen and Wong Wai-keung alleges that a property leased by an Apple Daily-affiliated company from a Hong Kong government entity hadn’t been used as intended, and the trio were in breach of the lease. Messrs. Chow and Wong were both granted bail, while Mr. Lai wasn’t.