Hong Kong exports HK$30 billion in graft every year, says academic

Researcher bases his figures on annual Hong Kong trade, and suggests that mainland officials and businessmen may be involved

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 February, 2014, 5:11am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 February, 2014, 5:11am

Hong Kong exports about HK$30 billion each year in corruption to developing countries, particularly the mainland, a University of Hong Kong expert has said, adding that the figure was an "extremely conservative" estimate.

"Hong Kong is clean, in part because we export our corruption," Bryane Michael, a senior fellow at the university's Asian Institute of International Financial Law, told the Sunday Morning Post.

"As integration occurs, it's [the mainland's] anti-corruption bodies that will need to ensure that corruption exported from Hong Kong does not affect China's reputation, which includes Hong Kong."

His comments came as the city's Independent Commission Against Corruption turned 40 this month.

In a 42-page paper published last month, Can the Hong Kong ICAC help reduce corruption on the mainland?, Michael says Hong Kong law does not "strongly discourage" bribery of foreign officials, "namely when Hong Kong company managers bribe a [mainland] government official or manager of a state-owned enterprise".

The paper says Hong Kong trades almost HK$6 trillion in goods each year. "Even if only 1 per cent of Hong Kong's foreign trade was exposed to bribery or other forms of corruption, the value of such corruption on the mainland would amount to HK$34 billion per year."

The paper also adds: "Corrupt [mainland] businessmen and officials use Hong Kong to bring money into [the mainland] and take money out."

In the 1970s, before the ICAC came into being, corruption was "largely petty and within Hong Kong's borders".

"Now, corruption is international; it's corporations that commit corruption as much as individuals."

The paper goes on to state that Hong Kong's all-powerful anti-corruption watchdog is unlikely to be replicated on the mainland because of the decades-old ties over the border that bind politics and profiteering so closely together.

"Unlike the British rulers of Hong Kong in the 1970s, many of [the mainland's] rulers have a strong vested political as well as economic interest in corruption," Michael said.