PERHAPS the most worrying fact to emerge from the Independent Commission Against Corruption's study into the way 50 Hongkong firms deal with the problem of giving ''gifts'' across the border is not its extent but its acceptance.
Out of 50 companies with mainland interests, 35 admitted they paid money regularly and it accounted for up to five per cent of annual operating costs.
''They face the cultural difference that people in China take 'guanxi' (personal connections) as essential and normal,'' says the study. ''It is commonly recognised as a means to get things done. Hongkong businessmen often have to rely on personal friendship and offers of 'gifts,' including cash and, in some cases, deposits in Hongkong bank accounts.'' According to those surveyed, the current costs of corruption are ''as yet bearable and are not viewed by Hongkong investors as an economic disincentive.'' This is comforting for commerce, but bad news for the rest of us. Perhaps if the costs go up, businessmen might take their role in halting corruption more seriously.
The survey states most of the business community consider themselves ''victims of the system''. They should also remember they are part of it, and it couldn't exist without them.