THE confirmation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption that a number of civil servants is being investigated for cross-border corruption is disturbing. China provides temptations for Hong Kong businessmen and civil servants but it seems that expectations of corruption are so high that people from the territory are often the seducers rather than the seduced. It is a commonplace observation that many people in Hong Kong fear the worst after 1997 and are determined to get as rich as they can as quickly as they can. Often the moral constraints are loose: despite the best efforts of the ICAC and senior figures in government and business, Hong Kong lags in developing a sense of business ethics. A cavalier attitude towards the rules in one sector infects the other. The ICAC Director of Operations, Jim Buckle, talked about private and public sector corruption this week. He expressed disappointment at the relatively lenient sentences passed by some judges on private businessmen convicted of corruption, although he stopped short of calling for parity of sentencing. He was too cautious. It is true that civil servants, whose job it is to serve the public and who are paid by the public, have a special duty to the public. Corruption by civil servants is not merely a financial crime, it also constitutes a breach of public trust. They must continue to receive very stiff sentences if they are found guilty. Corruption in government strikes at the heart of the system. Private sector corruption, however, also damages the territory and its reputation as a place in which people can safely and surely do business. Business corruption is a breach of faith both with a company's shareholders and with the people of Hong Kong. The penalties for corruption in the private sector should be no less severe.