Committed to investigating corruption, wherever it lurks
I refer to Jake van der Kamp's column ('Graft-busters go from hooking big fish to catching minnows', November 20).
Irrespective of its scale or magnitude, corruption is an insidious crime that should be attacked on all fronts. Hong Kong is widely regarded as an effective model of fighting corruption through investigation, prevention and education, and one of the least corrupt places in the world. Since its inception, the Independent Commission Against Corruption has vigorously gone after the corrupt in the public as well as private sectors.
The ICAC has the statutory duty to investigate all pursuable corruption allegations (section 12 of ICAC Ordinance). We would be remiss in our duty not to do so.
The commission has no discretionary power to drop any corruption complaint, be it big or small. We conduct investigations impartially, irrespective of the background, position and status of those involved. Evidence collected is submitted to the Department of Justice for it to consider prosecution. The independent judiciary decides whether a person is guilty of the offences for which he is prosecuted. All investigations are scrutinised by the independent Operations Review Committee.
It is true that more misconduct cases of public servants, such as awarding government projects to companies in which the officer has financial interest or to their relatives, have emerged in recent years. The courts took such cases seriously by imposing deterrent sentences.
Last year, the ICAC prosecuted more than 380 persons. More than 88 per cent of these cases resulted in convictions. In one recent ICAC case, the bribes offered in return for contracts exceeded HK$28 million. Van der Kamp mentioned cases connected with applications for Hong Kong Jockey Club membership, suggesting they were petty. Some of them involved substantial bribe payments of up to HK$450,000.
The ICAC also reaches out to citizens from all walks of life to spread the anti-corruption message. Annual opinion surveys show that the commission enjoys 98 per cent public support.
Van der Kamp seems to suggest that the Hong Kong community may tolerate corruption if it is minor. This goes against annual surveys which show that the community's tolerance for corruption is extremely low.
With the community's support, Hong Kong has succeeded in keeping graft under tight control after decades of hard work. To prevent corruption from rearing its ugly head again, anti-graft fighters will not drop their guard.
Valentina Chan, principal press information officer, ICAC