Zero tolerance for corruption in Hong Kong

A new survey showed that the Hong Kong public views clean society as crucial to development, with 99.2 percent of respondents saying keeping Hong Kong corruption-free would attract foreign investment and bring economic benefits.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) commissioned an independent polling agency to conduct the household survey to gauge the public’s perception and their major concerns in regard to the corruption problem. The survey was conducted between October and November 2011

“The survey not only shows a high degree of public vigilance against corruption but also the community’s continued trust in the ICAC as 98 percent said the anti-graft agency deserved their support,” a spokesman for the ICAC said in a media release.

Part of this vigilance is the people's increased willingness to report corruption this year (77 percent), up from 75.9 percent in last year's survey. Consequently, those unwilling to report corruption also went down from 5.3 percent to 4.7 percent.

Asked whether they had come across corruption in the past 12 months, a minimal 1.2 percent answered in the affirmative this year versus a slightly higher number (2.2 percent) last year. The almost zero absence of corruption experience is directly proportional to the high degree of importance the public places on keeping Hong Kong corruption-free.

Almost all, or 99.2 percent of respondents, said it is very important to keep Hong Kong clean to boost its overall development, up from 9.6 percent last year.

Among the different sectors in Hong Kong, the public views the construction and engineering industry as the area where corruption should be most minimal, followed by government services and real estate. In all three areas, respondents said corrupt practices affect people's livelihood, result in substandard workmanship, disturb the social order, often lead to price manipulations and other practices that affect citizens.

In Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index, Hong Kong ranks 12th in the world's cleanest country, with an overall score of 8.4. The index scores 183 countries and territories from 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean) based on perceived levels of public sector corruption. Two thirds of ranked countries score less than 5, according to TI.

In comparison with other countries in Asia-Pacific, Hong Kong ranks fourth in Asia-Pacific, after New Zealand (first), Singapore (second), Australia (3rd). New Zealand topped the global index with an overall score of 9.5.

Transparency International
Managing Director, Cobus de Swardt, said in a media statement during the release of the report that these high-scoring countries "show that over time efforts to improve transparency can, if sustained, be successful and benefit their people."

In Hong Kong's case, the survey highlights what the public perceives as ways to further strengthen ICAC and its crusade against corruption. More than half of the respondents (51.4 percent) said more work is needed for publicity and education to enhance public awareness on anti-corruption drives, while 17.8 percent said there should be more focus on law enforcement to enhance the so-called "deterrent effect" of anti-corruption initiatives.

In line with the perceived need for a more vigorous campaign for public awareness on corruption issues, students were named as the top target for the campaign, followed by government departments, civil servants and councilors. Also named were youth, new arrivals, and the real estate and construction industries.

“While we feel encouraged by the strong public support revealed in the survey, the findings also serve as useful reference for the ICAC in fine-tuning our work strategy to address the community’s concerns,” said an ICAC spokesman in a media statement.

“The public can rest assured that the Commission will continue to carry out its duties effectively, independently and impartially, under stringent checks and balances,” the spokesman added.