Two senior Immigration Department officials received gift hampers from the driver of an Evergrande executive director, Stand News has reported. The hampers – delivered to their homes – were officially priced at HK$3,388 each, exceeding the permissible amount under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance.

The incident came months after the chief of immigration was found to have shared a hotpot dinner with other security officials alongside another Evergrande executive at a private club in August, breaching Covid-19 rules.

The Shangri-La gift hamper. Photo: internet.

Deputy Director of Immigration Benson Kwok Joon-fung – the department’s second in command – and Principal Immigration Officer Jacky Wong Ki each received a Shangri-la Hotel gift hamper priced at $3,388 at their homes on September 17, days before Mid-Autumn Festival this year, Stand News reported.

The news outlet caught on camera an Evergrande driver leaving from the company’s Wan Chai headquarters and arriving first to Kwok’s government-provided residence in Tai Hang to deliver the first hamper. The driver then drove back to the company headquarters at around noon to pick up a second hamper, which was delivered to Wong’s residence in Fo Tan on the same day.

A woman gave the driver HK$50 in cash, saying she was instructed by Mr. Wong to offer the tip.

The same driver was later spotted by the news outlet driving Evergrande Executive Director Huang Xiangui in another vehicle in November.

Principal Immigration Officer Jacky Wong Ki and Deputy Director of Immigration Benson Kwok Joon-fung. Photo: StandNews remix.

The authorities rejected a Stand News request under the Code on Access of Information to seek data from Immigration on declared gifts officials received in September and October.

Early bird discount

According to the Acceptance of Advantages (Chief Executive’s Permission) Notice under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, civil servants may accept but not solicit gifts from “a close personal friend” on occasions where gifts are traditionally given or exchanged, such as weddings or birthdays. The rules require that the gift’s “apparent value… does not exceed HK$3,000 from any one person on any one occasion.” Gifts that do not fulfil these requirements are not allowed unless with permission from the approving authority.

In response to Stand News’ enquiries through the department’s spokesperson, Kwok and Wong both denied the hampers were valued beyond what would require official declaration. They said they knew Huang for many years, were “good friends” and that they reported the gifts to the immigration chief following the media enquiry.

Immigration Tower. File photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

Kwok’s statement cited the hamper’s online selling price last year as HK$3,188, but said its 2021 value would not exceed HK$3,000 with early bird discounts. “Because I am a close personal friend with Mr. Huang, and have no official dealings with him, there is no conflict of interest. I did not declare the hamper to the Director of Immigration for this reason,” his statement read.

Wong’s statement stated that the hamper was sold at HK$2,879.80 from an online store. He also said that he had no official dealings nor conflicts of interest with the sender. Vouchers for the hamper were available for sale on the HKTVMall website at the same price, though the original value is shown as HK$3,388.

“The Immigration Department is going to investigate,” Security Bureau Chief Chris Tang told the press on Wednesday when asked about the incident. “I think after the conclusion of the investigation, we can comment further.”

Meanwhile, the department told Stand News that it “attaches great importance to its officers’ conduct and will handle seriously any illegal acts or misconduct in accordance with the law and existing procedures.”

HKFP has reached out to both the Immigration Department and Evergrande for comment.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.