HONG KONG (Reuters) -A 37-year-old senior official of Chinese developer Evergrande Group appeared in a Hong Kong court on Monday to face a charge of attempted rape, the judiciary press office said.
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.
Chen Fen, Evergrande's Hong Kong deputy general manager, denied attempted rape of a woman at a residential building in the Happy Valley district and was released on bail of HK$100,000 ($12,873), the press office said in a statement.
He cannot leave the city and must report to police twice a week as part of his bail conditions, Hong Kong media reported.
The court will hold a preliminary inquiry on July 30.
Evergrande did not respond to a request for comment.
Media reported that Chen had engaged three lawyers but Reuters could not reach them for comment.
A total of nine people attended the dinner, in violation of COVID 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, close to Happy Valley.
($1 = 7.7678 Hong Kong dollars)
(Reporting by Clare Jim; editing by Robert Birsel and Jason Neely)