CORRUPTION fighters have persuaded diamond merchants to adopt stringent codes amid fears industry standards will be undermined after the change of sovereignty. The Hong Kong Diamond Bourse and the Diamond Importers Association both said yesterday the industry's continued growth depended on ethical benchmarks. Bourse president, Leung Sik-wah, said the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) had given guidelines on how to form a code of ethics and how to detect signs of corruption. Mr Leung said he wanted to guard against a drop-off in standards after 1997. 'Because of the work of the ICAC, Hong Kong people know clearly what is right and what is wrong. But in China, the work of fighting corruption is not so deeply known in the community. 'If we have these ethics established in Hong Kong now, then when the takeover occurs, we will not have to rely on Chinese perceptions of corruption. 'If the morals are in place before then, it becomes a way of life.' With total trade approaching $24 billion a year, the territory's diamond trade is now the third largest in the world. While the buying market in China is still small, with rising affluence and greater concentration on fashion this situation could change rapidly. Particularly as the mainland has already established itself as a big diamond polishing centre. 'After the establishment of the ICAC, Hong Kong has become cleaner, better,' said Mr Leung. 'But, China's image to outsiders is that if you need to get things done, you need to spend some money to get an advantage. 'We want to promote to the world the image that all diamonds sold here are genuine and fairly priced.' ICAC Community Relations Director, Eddie So, said he was pleased the diamond industry was promoting its stance. Mr So said many trade and business organisations had responded positively to the campaign to generate greater awareness. Up until the end of October, of the 475 listed companies approached by the ICAC, 237 had formulated codes of conduct. In the same way, 105 of 275 trade associations and 315 of the 557 major firms approached had put in place similar business guidelines. Gaston D'Aquino, vice chairman of the Diamond Importers Association, pointed out that most Hong Kong concerns were family-style businesses operating in one of the tightest markets in the world in terms of competition. The two associations represent about 80 per cent of all diamond dealers and many jewellery shop proprietors.