20 April 2017
Hong Kong: A level playing field
Hong Kong is renowned for a robust anti-corruption regime, a clean public service and a level playing field for businesses. Corruption in both the public and private sectors of Hong Kong has been kept effectively in check through a holistic anti-corruption strategy of law enforcement, prevention and education carried out by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC):
- Corruption trend as reflected by the report statistics remains steady. In recent years, around 2,000 - 3,000 corruption complaints were received each year.
- 90% of the corruption reports came from members of the public, with over 70% of the complainants were willing to reveal their identities.
- About 2,900 corruption complaints (excluding election-related complaints) were received in 2016. 63% of them concerned the private sector, 29% about government departments and 8% about public bodies.
- About 200-300 persons were charged with corruption and related offences each year. The conviction rate stood at about 80% in recent years.
- The Hong Kong Business Ethics Development Centre (HKBEDC) was set up in 1995 by the ICAC in partnership with major chambers of commerce in Hong Kong to promote business ethics. In addition to offering corruption prevention services to newly listed companies within three months of their listing, the ICAC launched a three-year Ethics Promotion Programme for Listed Companies in 2015 to promote ethical governance to directors and senior executives of Hong Kong listed companies and related professionals.
- In 2016, over 41,000 business employees and nearly 35,000 public officers attended integrity training. To help public and private sector organisations to strengthen internal control and reduce opportunities for corruption, 3,700 corruption prevention studies had been conducted in the past four decades.
The ICAC commissions independent consultancy firms to conduct annual community-wide opinion surveys to gauge public's perception and their concerns over corruption. The ICAC Annual Survey 2016 reveals that corruption remains firmly under control in Hong Kong:
- 98.5% of the respondents had not come across corruption in the past 12 months, reflecting a very low level of corruption in the community.
- 99.2% of the respondents agreed that keeping Hong Kong corruption-free was important to the overall development of Hong Kong.
- 96.2% of the respondents supported the ICAC.
- Hong Kong's community embraces a zero tolerance attitude towards corruption. Using a 0 to 10 rating scale, of which 0 represents zero tolerance and 10 total tolerance of corruption, the mean score for 2016 was 0.7.
Further information about the probity situation in Hong Kong can be found at the website of the ICAC.
International anti-graft surveys
In addition to being the freest and most competitive economy in the world, Hong Kong has been consistently ranked among the cleanest places in the world:
Corruption Perception Index, Transparency International (2016)
- Hong Kong is ranked the 15th least corrupt place among 176 countries/territories and the 2nd lowest in Asia.
Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation (2017)
- Hong Kong is the freest economy among 186 countries/territories for the 23rd consecutive year.
- In relation to Hong Kong, the Index mentioned that "[t]here is little tolerance for corruption, and government integrity is buttressed by a high degree of transparency".
- Regarding the "Rule of Law" aspect, the report further pointed out that "Hong Kong has an excellent track record in combating corruption."
Rule of Law Index, World Justice Project (2016)
- Hong Kong is ranked the 16th out of 113 countries and jurisdictions for its overall rule of law performance and the 8th under the factor of "absence of corruption".
World Competitiveness Yearbook 2016, International Institute for Management Development (IMD) (2016)
- Hong Kong is the most competitive economy among 61 economies.
- Hong Kong is ranked the 7th under "bribing and corruption", one of the criteria under the competitiveness factor "Government Efficiency".
Global Business Bribery Risk Index (TRACE Matrix), TRACE International (2016)
- Hong Kong is the 4th place with least bribery risk among 199 economies/jurisdictions and tops the Asia's list.
- The survey made the following positive observations about Hong Kong:
- "a very low expectation of bribes",
- "a high quality of anti-bribery laws and a high quality of anti-bribery enforcement",
- "very good governmental transparency and good civil service transparency/health" and
- "very high degree of media freedom/quality and a very high degree of social development".
Global Competitiveness Index, World Economic Forum (2016-17)
- Hong Kong is ranked the 9th most competitive place among 138 economies.
Worldwide Governance Indicators, World Bank (2016)
- Hong Kong is ranked the 17th out of the 215 economies under the dimension of Control of Corruption.
Hong Kong anti-corruption laws
Under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (POBO), corruption is prohibited in both the public and private sectors:
- Do not offer any advantage to a public servant while having dealings with his employer, whether it is a government office or a public body.
- Do not offer any advantage to a public servant on account of his performing or not performing an official duty.
(Certain companies are specified in the POBO as public bodies and their employees are considered as public servants.)
- Do not offer any advantage to an employee in connection with his employer's business without the latter's permission.
- Do not solicit of accept any advantage without the employer's permission.
Convictions of any of the above offences will result in a maximum penalty of 7 years' imprisonment and a fine of HK$500,000. The convicted person may be ordered to make full restitution of the illicit gains and may be prohibited from being a director or manager of any company, managing any partnership or practising any profession for a maximum of 7 years.
For details about the Hong Kong anti-corruption laws, please refer to the website of the ICAC.
Corruption prevention services by the ICAC
Corruption, fraud and other malpractices in companies erode profits, increase operating costs and tarnish the reputation. The Hong Kong Business Ethics Development Centre of the ICAC provides customised, free services to help businesses enhance corporate governance, manage corruption risks and provide staff training in work ethics and integrity. Its services include:
- Formulating and reviewing codes of conduct
- Organising training in business and professional ethics and corruption prevention
- Offering advice to companies on system control
- Publishing practical guides and training packages on ethics management