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Chinese Corruption Spreading to Hong Kong “Like SARS & Avian Flu”

A misconduct scandal implicating Timothy Tong, the former chief of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), has Hong Kong and mainland Chinese people worried that ubiquitous corruption in China has spread to Hong Kong.

The scandal has lead some mainland Chinese netizens including Cheng Hongshing (郑洪升), to urge [zh] Chinese officials not to spread corruption to Hong Kong. He writes on popular microblogging site Sina Weibo:

鄙人对香港廉政公署铁面无私地维护香港的核心利益:廉洁,十分敬佩。[…] 我想说的是咱内地官员就在内地腐败吧,别把腐败像非典和禽流感一样传染到香港与澳门,请阁下嘴下留情,就在内地大吃大喝,保住人家这块干净的宝地吧。

I respect the work of ICAC in defending the core value of Hong Kong against corruption very much. […] I want to tell our mainland Chinese officials to contain corruption within China. Don't spread corruption to Hong Kong and Macau like SARS and avian flu. Please control your mouths and eat what you want in China, leave others’ clean and precious land alone.

ICAC is the most respected anti-corruption organization in Hong Kong and has a remarkable track record in defending the city against corruption. However, a number of recently released government documents, including the audit report and Legislative Council papers, have shown that Timothy Tong was involved in several cases of overspending on lavish meals and gifts for mainland Chinese officials during his five-year tenure. Local newspapers further revealed that two of the dinners were held in November and December 2010 in five-star hotels. The combined bills amounted to HK$77,000 (US$10,000) and average spending per head was HK$1,150 (US$148) and HK$1,275 (US$164) respectively, well above the limit of HK$450 [US$58] per person. The overspending was to cater to the luxurious alcohol drinking culture among mainland Chinese officials.

Hong Kong newspaper headlines said Timothy Tong had hosted officials from the the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong more than 20 times when he was head of ICAC.

Hong Kong newspaper headlines said Timothy Tong had hosted officials from the the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong more than 20 times when he was head of ICAC. Screen caption from Now news

Furthermore, the fact that Tong was appointed as a representative of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) by the mainland Chinese authorities upon his retirement from ICAC last year has triggered more speculation about the intentions behind his overt hospitality. He has been openly accused [zh] by a number of news commentators of using tax payers’ money to build personal connections with Chinese officials from the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong, who are responsible for nominations of CPPCC members.

The scandal has not only outraged Hong Kong people but also mainland Chinese. Many mainland Chinese netizens believe that the corrupted political culture in China has spread to Hong Kong like an epidemic. Xu Shaolin (老徐時評), a popular commentator on Sina Weibo, criticized [zh] mainland Chinese officials for dragging Hong Kong into the dirty water of mainland corruption:

俗话说近朱者赤近墨者黑。口碑一直很好的香港廉政公署,被揭发用公款宴请内地官员,喝茅台、XO,吃喝金额人均1100元,超过了450元的标准,并赠送了超过800元的超额礼物,引起香港社会哗然。香港一向引以自豪的一片净土终于沦陷了。内地官员终于把资本主义香港的廉政公属拉下水了。

There is a common saying that when one stays close to something in red, one will be tainted red. When one stays close to the dark, one will be tainted black. The Hong Kong ICAC had very good reputation and now it has been exposed that it used the tax payers’ money to invite mainland Chinese officials for luxurious drinks like Moutai and XO. The meal per head count on average was HK$1100, a lot more than the HK$450 standard allowance. In addition to that, they were presented with gifts that cost more than HK$800. The news has shaken Hong Kong society. The clean city that Hong Kong people have been so proud of has fallen. The mainland Chinese officials have finally dragged the ICAC in the capitalist society into dirty water.

Shi Pu (史璞) echoed [zh] Xu with sarcasm:

资本主义的香港廉政公署不敌社会主义的官僚——事实证明:社会主义一定会战胜资本主义。

Capitalist Hong Kong's ICAC cannot defeat Socialist government bureaucrats — Fact proven: Socialism will defeat capitalism.

Wang Jinlong (王金龙Vav) believed [zh] that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has destroyed ICAC's independence:

廉政公署独立于香港政府架构,廉政专员直接向特首负责,故而其自身廉政可以保全;97香港回归后,我党收回特区,以我党的作风,想必廉政公署前面那个independent徒有虚名了。

ICAC operates independently from the intervention of all government units. The chief commissioner reports directly to the city mayor so that it won't be caught with conflicting interest. After the unification of Hong Kong and China in 1997, the CCP has taken over the special administrative region. According to the CCP's style, the word “independent” in ICAC is just decorative.

Yan Lieshan (鄢烈山), a famous writer in Guangdong province addressed [zh] the power relation between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese government officials:

[怪了,香港廉署怕内地官员什么?]不超标招待内地官员,会被罢官吗?

[This is strange, why does the Hong Kong ICAC have to pay tribute to mainland Chinese officials?] Will they be sacked if not buying mainland Chinese officials extravagant meals?

Qian Zhicai (爱迪凯迅钱志财) pointed out [zh] that the unequal power relationship lies in the appointment system:

中央政府应重新检讨委任香港退休高官做政协委员的政策。一些即将离任的官员,为了得到某些政治待遇,有可能放弃自己的原则,甚至用不正当手段争取利益。香港廉政公署前廉政专员目前被传媒揭发为了做政协委员,三番四次请内地官员吃饭喝酒送礼,尽管中联办主任张晓明认为正常,但是迟早搞乱香港官场

The central government should review the appointment of retired Hong Kong government officials as members of CPPCC. Some Hong Kong government officials who want to gain certain political positions after their retirement may give up their principles or even resort to illegitimate means. Media in Hong Kong has exposed that the former chief commissioner of ICAC, in order to become a member of CPPCC, had bought meals and gifts for mainland Chinese officials. Even though the head of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong, Zhang Xiaoming, believed that such exchanges were normal, [the arbitrary appointment system] will bring chaos to Hong Kong government.

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