Tongues start wagging again
The fall of Rafael Hui Si-yan - from well-respected veteran civil servant and a political heavyweight to corruption suspect - has sent shock waves among civil servants and once again stirred talk of collusion between big money and high power.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption's most high-profile arrests in its history come at a time when the city is riveted with reports of the relationship between senior officials and big business - which many believe are too close for comfort.
Just weeks ago, accusations of Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen accepting favours from tycoon friends caused a political storm and forced Tsang to publicly defend himself in Legco.
Tsang's predicament pales in comparison with yesterday's bombshell.
Efficient, smart and beaming with confidence, 64-year-old Hui was until yesterday seen by many as the cream of the crop of Hong Kong's public servants.
He held important posts from the 1970s to 2000, rising to chief secretary under Tsang between 2005 and 2007. He was Tsang's chief strategist in the 2005 chief executive campaign.
Senior Government Officers Association honorary chairman So Ping-chi yesterday said he was shocked by the actions taken by the graft-buster.
'It has dealt a big blow [to people's confidence in the government] as scandals [over existing and former officials] broke out one after another,' he said.
'[Hui] was number two in the government. I believe the public are very worried.'
So said the arrests should be taken as a wake-up call for the government, as they would fuel public concern about ties between officials and big business. He hoped chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying would prevent public faith in the government from deteriorating further.
Political commentator Allen Lee Peng-fei said: 'His [Hui's] arrest will also further deepen people's discontent with Tsang's administration, which is plagued by the chief executive's acceptance of favours from his tycoon friends.'
James To Kun-sun, chairman of the Legislative Council's security panel, said: 'The recent scandals dealt a severe blow. Both Tsang and Hui had been in the administrative officer grade of the government for years ... people expect that they are capable, corruption-free and have leadership talent.
'Some may wonder if such disciplines can still be upheld after the handover, in view of the fact that some [existing and former] top officials are embattled with such rows,' To added.
Li Kwai-yin, vice-president of the Hong Kong Chinese Civil Servants' Association, said she believed Hui's arrest would not undermine public confidence.
'Hui's case shows that all people, irrespective of their status and positions, are equal before the law ... It will serve as a deterrent,' she said.
Ngai Sik-shui, a staff representative of the Disciplined Services Consultative Council, also said he believed civil servants would still abide by the rules and remain free from corruption.
Joseph Wong Wing-ping, who worked under Hui when he was secretary for commerce, industry and technology in 2006 and 2007, said: 'I am a bit surprised [by Hui's arrest], as many local people will be.'
But he added: 'Hong Kong is under the rule of law. Hui remains innocent until he is found or pleads guilty.'