Evergrande Hong Kong employee charged with attempted rape released on bail

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - A senior official of Chinese developer Evergrande Group appeared in a Hong Kong court on Monday (July 19) to face a charge of attempted rape, media reported.

The case has attracted significant attention in Hong Kong, where the defendant is accused of attempting to rape a woman after a dinner at an exclusive club in March that was also attended by three senior government officials.

The Mingpao newspaper reported that Evergrande's Hong Kong deputy general manager, Chen Fen, denied the charge and was released on bail of HK$100,000 (S$17,500). He cannot leave the city and must report to police twice a week as part of his bail conditions, it said.

The court will hold a preliminary inquiry on July 30.

The court's schedule confirmed Chen's hearing was on Monday and the charge he faces is attempted rape but a court official did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Evergrande did not respond to a request for comment.

Media reported that Chen had engaged three lawyers.

A total of nine people attended the dinner, in violation of Covid-19 restrictions at the time, media has reported.

The three government officials - Under Secretary for Security Sonny Au, Director of Immigration Au Ka-wang and Customs and Excise Commissioner Hermes Tang - were fined for breaching the four-person seating limit.

The other five attendees have not been identified.

The Hong Kong government has declined public calls for a formal investigation and full disclosure on the dinner, stressing the three officials, all under the security bureau, were not involved in any criminal investigation and the meal did not involve any conflict of interest.

The three government officials said in separate statements this month, after media reported on the dinner, that they had paid fines for violating the social gathering rules and would exercise caution when attending events in future.

Media said the dinner took place in a private club in the night life district of Wan Chai and the alleged rape attempt rape happened at a residence afterwards.