Hong Kong’s anti-corruption watchdog has charged five people with bribery linked to the construction of the airport’s third runway.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption Commissioner Headquarters in North Point. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The five were charged by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) with soliciting and accepting “illegal rebates” totalling over HK$200,000, according to a statement released on Wednesday.

Zhuang Huitao, Huang Dehou, Meng Zhijiang, Chow Fuk-leung and Chan Fai-ching faced charges including “agent soliciting an advantage,” “agent accepting an advantage” and “conspiracy for agents to accept advantages” between June 2020 and March 2022.

All of them worked with MLife Engineering Limited (MEL), which was a sub-contractor of the third runway construction project. The company was responsible for “recruiting construction workers to conduct various works,” the ICAC said.

According to the watchdog, the bribes involved accepting “illegal rebates” for helping workers secure their employment with MEL.

Hong Kong airport third runway
The third runway in the Hong Kong International Airport. Photo: GovHK.

Meng also allegedly conspired with others to make a false statement to the ICAC regarding the rebates. He faces an additional count of “conspiracy to do an act tending and intending to pervert the course of public justice.”

The five will appear at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Monday.

Earlier this month, two people – one of them a senior executive at the Airport Authority – were charged with accepting and offering bribes of around HK$3.8 million.

They were among 30 people arrested the day before they were charged. Items including cash, luxury watches, fine wines and gold coins were found at the homes and offices of some of those arrested.

A total of 13 people have been charged in connection with the investigation, the watchdog said.

New airport runway

Once one of the busiest airports in the world, the Hong Kong International Airport now sees a fraction of the travellers it did before Covid-19 travel restrictions. The city’s tough rules – which once required returning residents to complete a 21-day quarantine period in a hotel – prompted International Air Transport Association to call the former aviation hub “effectively off the map.”

airport covid
Hong Kong airport during Covid-19 restrictions in May, 2022. File photo: Tania Chan/HKFP.

The third runway took five years to construct and opened in July this year. The project faced opposition from environmental groups, who said the construction would significantly affect the area’s ecology including the habitat of Chinese white dolphin.

The entire project was estimated to cost over HK$140 billion, which has been shouldered partially by travellers flying out in the form of an “airport construction fee.”

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.