Hong Kong’s Anti-Graft Agency Is in Turmoil, Prompting Fears for the City’s Transparency

July 14, 2016 / Rishi Iyengar / Time.com

Experts voice concerns that government and mainland Chinese interference could be at work

Since its inception 42 years ago, Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has come to be held up as a model for antigraft agencies around the world. It has been praised and emulated by authorities in several countries, and is credited by many with catalyzing the semi autonomous Chinese territory’s evolution into a global financial hub.

Now, the commission is in the middle of an unprecedented mutiny.

The past week has seen not only the ouster of the ICAC’s head of operations, a veteran investigator named Rebecca Li, and the subsequent resignation of principal investigator Dale Ko, but also saw the agency forced to postpone its annual staff dinner after a majority of the employees boycotted it in protest, the South China Morning Post reported.

Li was in the middle of an investigation into Hong Kong’s top official, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying who was accused two years ago of possessing over $6 million in undeclared assets from an Australian firm. Leung vigorously denies committing improprieties. In a statement issued at the time, his office said there was no legal requirement for Leung to declare the assets, since they related to the period before he took office.

Leung also insisted on Tuesday that he had played absolutely no role in Li’s termination but only found out about it after the fact. Nonetheless, her removal and the internal unrest that have followed indicate serious problems at the agency.

The ICAC’s current head, commissioner Simon Peh, said in a statement that Li had “not met the criteria” for the “needs of the position” and made references to an internal meeting, in which Li was told that she had underperformed during her yearlong tenure. He also corroborated Leung’s assertion that the chief executive had no involvement in the decision. Read more…

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