Hong Kong’s anti-graft watchdog the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) received a total of 2,264 corruption complaints in 2021, an 18 per cent increase compared to the year before. It also recorded a number of grievances related to elections, including those related to people calling on others to cast “blank votes.”
In a press conference on Wednesday, ICAC Commissioner Simon Peh said the rise in complaints mostly concerned the private sector, because of increased economic activities in the second half of 2021 as the pandemic eased.
The private sector accounted for 1,482 complaints, or almost two-thirds of those received. The building management, construction industry and finance and insurance sectors attracted the most complaints.
Government departments and public bodies, meanwhile, received 645 and 137 complaints respectively in 2021. Regarding government departments, the police received the most with 150 complaints, despite recording a drop of 13 per cent from the previous year.
|Government departments||2020||2021||Percentage change|
|Hong Kong Police Force||173||150||– 13%|
|Food and Environmental Hygiene Department||96||117||+ 22%|
|Housing Department||37||40||+ 8%|
|Public bodies||2020||2021||Percentage change|
|Hospital Authority||34||33||– 3%|
|District Council||26||12||– 54%|
|MTR Corporation Limited||13||8||– 38%|
Peh said the watchdog would provide more training and education initiatives for both public and private sectors to prevent corruption.
The ICAC also recorded eight grievances regarding the Election Committee Subsector Elections last year, of which seven were pursuable. Of the 52 complaints for last year’s Legislative Council election, 48 were pursuable.
Peh did not say how many were related to people calling on others to cast “blank votes,” but he said that authorities have arrested 10 people for inciting others to cast invalid votes in elections, three of whom have been convicted. Seven others are wanted, he added.
According to previous press releases, those wanted by the watchdog included Sunny Cheung, a pro-democracy activist who fled to the US, and former district councillor Timothy Lee, who is in self-exile in the UK.
Peh was asked to respond to claims that the anti-graft watchdog made political prosecutions, such as the one against pro-democracy legal scholar Benny Tai. Tai last month pleaded guilty to incurring illegal election expenses by placing newspaper advertisements in the run-up to the 2016 LegCo polls.
“The particular case was not related to the national security law. It was related to the elections. The work the ICAC does is different from that done by the national security police. The two shall not be confused,” said Peh.
Peh also rebuffed what he called “unreasonable criticisms against Hong Kong’s rule of law made by Western countries,” saying that the city was seen to have low levels of corruption according to international indices.
Peh’s tenure as ICAC commissioner will end on June 30, but he refused to disclose his next step when asked by reporters. He has held the position for 10 years.
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