Corruption persists in Hong Kong?

Last week Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) charged two billionaire businessmen with paying about $4.1 million in bribes to civil servants in relation to property deals between 2000 and 2009.  Here’s the New York Times:

On Friday, the Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption, or I.C.A.C., charged the two brothers with bribery and misconduct.

The charges accuse the Kwoks and two other men — Thomas Chan Kui-yuen, executive director of Sun Hung Kai Properties; and Kwan Hung-sang, a businessman also known as Francis — of conspiring to provide Rafael Hui, the former chief secretary of the Hong Kong civil service, with the use of two apartments, as well as unsecured loans, in return for unspecified favors.

The case is of particularly interest because Hong Kong’s independent corruption agency is often cited as a model for other countries and Hong Kong is often cited as one of the few countries that have successfully reduced corruption in recent years.  For example, I heard Hong Kong (and Singapore) given as examples of success at a conference last week–see here.   Thus this case could further increase the reputation of its independent agency if it is successful, but I wonder whether, at the same time, it has the potential to partially undermine the city’s reputation as a success case.  I would hypothesise that low-level bureaucratic corruption has been reduced because corruption has been centralized–that a consolidation of political and economic power allowed state institutions to successfully crack-down on low-level (and decentralized) corruption.

New York Times article: Hong Kong Billionaires Charged With Bribery.

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