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How Hong Kong can strengthen its anti-corruption agency

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Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption celebrates its 45th anniversary on February 15, so it is perhaps an appropriate time to reflect on its past, present and future.

Many Hong Kong people credit the British colonial government for establishing the ICAC and making Hong Kong a renowned corruption-free society. But this statement is only half true. One should also ask why Hong Kong was so corrupt in the first place. Pre-1974, corruption in colonial Hong Kong had gone from bad to worse. By the 1970s, the problem was probably the worst in the world. Corruption was described as affecting Hongkongers “from womb to tomb”.

Almost every Hongkonger experienced it at some point in their life. It was amazing to observe at the time that whenever Hong Kong had a new governor or new police commissioner coming from Britain to take office, they would vow to eradicate corruption, only for the problem to be worse once they had completed their term.

Nearly 80 civil servants referred to departments over graft claims in 2018

When Murray MacLehose arrived on November 19, 1971 to be the 25th governor, he was said to have been briefed upon arrival on the seriousness of corruption and urged to take strong action. But, apparently, such advice was ignored. It was only two years later, in 1973, when chief superintendent Peter Godber escaped a police investigation into his unexplained wealth and absconded to Britain, sparking a huge public protest, that MacLehose was forced to address the problem. He set up the ICAC in 1974.

To be fair, some credit should........

© South China Morning Post