• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 11:40pm
NewsHong Kong
CORRUPTION

Reputation of Hong Kong's anti-graft agency at stake over Tong scandal

Former long-serving senior graft-fighters decry the allegations against an ex-commissioner and internal strife, and fear for agency's future

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 May, 2013, 5:03am

Former senior ICAC investigators who helped stamp out endemic corruption in Hong Kong fear its hard-earned reputation as one of the cleanest anti-graft agencies in the world is on the line as a result of the Timothy Tong Hin-ming scandal.

One long-serving graft-fighter - who spent almost 30 years with the Independent Commission Against Corruption - is sickened by the allegations against former commissioner Tong.

Another now-retired veteran who joined the ICAC in the late 1970s said "the very existence of the agency as we have come to know it" was under threat as a result of both the allegations and strife within the organisation.

Last week it was announced that two probes would be held into allegations that Tong spent excessive amounts of public money on entertaining mainland officials and broke the internal rules of the ICAC. One will be led by the Legislative Council's public accounts committee and another by a four-member committee, which will report to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

The scandal has unfolded against the backdrop of some of the most high-profile anti-corruption investigations in the ICAC's history, including one into Leung over allegedly illegal structures at his home.

The anti-graft body is also investigating former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, who stood against Leung in the chief executive election, also over allegations of impropriety over building work at his home, and Leung's predecessor, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen over his ties with tycoons.

At the same time the ICAC is pursuing billionaire brothers Raymond Kwok Ping-luen and Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, who run property giant Sun Hung Kai Properties, and former government No2 Rafael Hui Si-yan over alleged bribery and misconduct in public office. All three face trial early next year.

One respected former senior investigator said: "Decades have been spent rooting out corruption and building a domestic and international reputation as an organisation beyond reproach. With these allegations, there is a very real risk that all that could be undone and the commission might find it hard to recover."

"The ICAC's ability to be an effective enforcement agency against corruption requires the public and the overseas agencies it works with to be certain that the men and women who work for it - not least those at the very top - are cleaner than clean. This episode is truly sickening and could have lasting damage," the former investigator said.

Another former graft fighter, who joined the ICAC in the 1970s, said: "Everyone knows there has been a degree of internal strife involving personalities within the organisation and changes at the top, including the relatively recent decision to start appointing civil servants to the post of commissioner. The Tong allegations coming out now will certainly exacerbate that.

"Unless this thing is handled properly, the very existence of an agency as we have come to know it is under threat,'' he said.

The most senior figure in the ICAC to face a top-level probe into his conduct was former deputy director of operations Alex Tsui Ka-kit, who was sensationally sacked 20 years ago after a Legislative Council probe.

"This is a disaster for Hong Kong. We don't need it. The ICAC is utterly destroyed at this stage. Allegations like this have appeared over the past 10 years, and to me they are years of infamy," Tsui said.

"It's a disgrace, not only for the people of Hong Kong but also the people who work in the ICAC. It's grossly unfair that they have to work in this environment. How can you have respect for your boss under such conditions? The matter is small but the consequences are great. This is a man who serves the Hong Kong people … they are paying his lunch bills at the end of the day."

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This article is now closed to comments

hard times !
Yeah,Mr.Tsui Ka-kit ( a former senior officer of that graft-buster) is qualified enough to make his comment on the recent scandal that battered the institution.He said that it was a disaster for Hong Kong and the ICAC.He further pointed out the allegations concerning Timothy Tong had been existing for ten years already at the graft-buster (which means that since 2003) Tsui further said that the past ten years were years of infamy to him ! Tong's scandal is a disgrace, not only to Hong Kong people but to the ICAC as well whose staff have to work in such an environment which integrity is doubted by the public and no more respect is paid to them as in the past ! Right ? Tong Hin-min is meant to serve Hong Kong people but we are paying his lunch bills (with his girlfriend) at the end of the day----------------how corrupted and greedy this coward Timothy Tong was/is !!
CatInAFlap
Corruption is the biggest problem the centrally controlled Chinese economy is facing. You really think the men and women in charge of that authoritarian system would allow an @independent@ anti-corruption agency to exist on Chinese soil? Wise up. One country two systems was a smart ruse, HK is dead. It was only a matter of time. That huge ICAC budget wil come in handy in paying off dissent.
joyalsofi
"The ICAC is utterly destroyed at this stage." If it's true, then what valuable purpose is served by stating it? But if it's not true, then much damage can be done from making people believe it's true. One can only wonder at the intention behind such a pronouncement.
lucifer
The key words here are "entertaining mainland officials."
Evidently love of country means behaving like the corrupt and morally bankrupt officials do in the Mainland. The answer is keeping out distance from the mainland while engaging with them economically though trade like many other sovereign countries do.
Otherwise instead of learning from Hong Kong, they will continue to destroy it.
Byebye
The future and status of Hong Kong depends on, quite obviously, how this "dirt" generated by the people mentioned in your article, is being handled. Time to clean up Hong Kong, making it world class as a "corruption-less" place, setting an example, perhaps for China, now perceived to be so corrupted.
CatInAFlap
Hong Kong's iconic ICAC disappearing fast, alon with the dolphins....
John Adams
As I read all the comments posted regarding this article I am amazed by the vehemence and unanimous opinions of everyone who commented.
It is very unusual for every commentator to express the same opinion.
We do have a very serious situation here because now the very "Independence" of the ICAC is in question, not just the integrity of its staff and especially the integrity of its leadership .
Therefore, to adapt a quote from Winston Churchill in 1942 :
"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning .... of the destruction of Hong Kong as One Country / Two Systems"
I sincerely hope that the allegations against Mr Tong are eventually proved false. But if the allegations are proved true he has done more damage to the reputation of Hong Kong than all the corrupt people from the past together .
HK-Explorer
Every case the ICAC successfully won a conviction with over the last 5 years should be retried. This amount of corruption shows that the whole process was severely broken. I would not be surprised if evidence was being faked / exaggerated due to the lack of morals in the ICAC from the top right down to the bottom.
It makes me question everything I have heard of the ICAC. If I had been convicted under them then
I would be asking for bail and a retrial. Any judge at this point would have a hard time to say no.
megafun
lets hope this will lead to naming of senior mainalnd officials being entertained, and in turn also lead to high profile investigations by BJ whom so strongly stated a need to get clean up.
John Adams
If the ICAC dies - Hong Kong will die
And that is the end of one country / two systems forever
CY ( and Ms Law / previous director of the ICAC ) : if you are reading this PLEASE DO SOMETHING !
Otherwise we all die
oasis
Who are we kidding - its anti-graft, ..... With Chinese characteristics
caractacus
At the heart of the problem is the ill thought out Political Appointment System foolishly and short sightedly initiated by Tung Chee Hwa in 2002 and expanded by the administration of the contemptible Donald Tsang and the despicable Henry Tang in 2008. This has led to less transparency, increasing non accountability and unprecedented levels of arrogance by untalented and mediocre little "emperors" which any wise person could foresee such a system would inevitably create. Opportunities for corruption have blossomed and become endemic in Hong Kong public life. It has evolved into a system of mutual **** kissing and back scratching. Most disgracefully, Tsang and Tang let the tycoons into the heart of policy making which those big businessmen used only for their own benefit, to the detriment of the ordinary people. The government of Hong Kong has now become totally ineffective and unrepresentative of those for whom it pretends to work.
We now have one country, one system which our current C. E. seems happy to endorse. How sad and disgusting.
mcheung
The flip side of the coin is every former and present senior servant should be investigated for any wrong doings, and any entrepreneurs be investigated for how they get so wealthy, or suspicion of money laundering, tax evasion, etc..... What a chaos this will create!

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