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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
[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:
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.