Published: 23:53, May 29, 2024
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SAR takes center stage with its international anti-corruption mission
By Tony Kwok

Only a few people know the significant role played by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in promoting international cooperation in the fight against corruption. As far back as 1983, the ICAC co-founded the first International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) and, subsequently, in 1987, hosted the third IACC in Hong Kong. However, when Transparency International took control of the IACC, it de-emphasized one of its original primary functions of promoting cooperation among anti-corruption agencies (ACAs). Therefore, during my tenure as the head of operations at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), we organized the first ICAC Symposium in 2000, with the aim of focusing on cooperation in practical and operational issues among ACAs.

During the first ICAC Symposium, in a discussion forum, I floated the idea of establishing an international association of anti-corruption agencies as a focal point for liaison among ACAs. The idea was widely endorsed and it was gratifying to note that the Supreme People’s Procuratorate of the People’s Republic of China took the initiative in 2006 to establish the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (IAACA) as the first global institution for anti-corruption agencies worldwide. The IAACA aimed to foster international anti-corruption collaboration and now boasts 173 members, covering nearly all ACAs worldwide. China’s chief procurator general was elected president of the IAACA for the first two terms, and the current president is ICAC Commissioner Danny Woo Ying-ming.

The recently concluded three-day 8th ICAC Symposium is particularly significant. First, the symposium attracted a record-high attendance of over 500 anti-graft officers, judges, prosecutors, regulators, and academics from approximately 180 anti-corruption and law enforcement agencies across nearly 60 jurisdictions and six continents. This impressive turnout constitutes a big slap in the face to Western governments that recently issued travel alerts on Hong Kong motivated by their desire to smear the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s national security laws. Moreover, these attendees have inadvertently become our most persuasive ambassadors, attesting to our current enviable law-and-order situation, which has replaced the dark days of the insurrection in 2019.

Second, it was the first time the symposium was jointly organized with the IAACA, which means that all the top anti-corruption experts in the world gathered in Hong Kong for the symposium and the 11th annual conference of the IAACA. Coincidentally, the ICAC will also celebrate its 50th anniversary this year.

Hence, it is highly significant that the IAACA annual conference concluded with the adoption of a declaration named after Hong Kong — the Hong Kong Declaration on Strengthening International Cooperation in Preventing and Fighting Corruption (Hong Kong Declaration). This praiseworthy declaration demonstrates the IAACA’s ongoing commitment to strengthening international anti-corruption cooperation as it honors Hong Kong’s unique contributions. It emphasizes the importance of global collaboration, the roles of anti-corruption authorities in effectively implementing the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), and the mitigation of corruption. It also acknowledges the need to adopt advanced technologies in fighting corruption, to involve both the public and private sectors, to engage the society as a whole, and to raise public awareness of corruption and its adverse impact on societies. The Hong Kong Declaration aligns with the symposium’s theme, “Charting a New Path to Combat Corruption”, providing a blueprint for all countries to follow in future endeavors against corruption.

Third, it provides the perfect backdrop and opportunity for the ICAC to enter into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, exemplifying international cooperation and exchange. This MoU continues the ICAC’s contribution to the UN office, including regularly seconding ICAC officers to the UN office and jointly organizing training courses for ACAs.

To promote integrity among the younger generation, especially future university graduates, the IAACA should advocate including a mandatory short course on “personal integrity and anti-corruption studies” in all universities worldwide

On the same occasion, in the presence of the chief executive as witness, the ICAC also signed MoUs with anti-corruption authorities of four countries — namely, Kazakhstan, Mauritius, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa — to enhance international anti-graft cooperation. These are Belt and Road countries, and no doubt ICAC will continue to sign MoUs with ACAs of most Belt and Road countries. This showcased the ICAC’s commitment to aligning with the country’s initiative to develop a Clean Silk Road with the concerted efforts of international counterparts.

One of the keynote speakers at the symposium was Fu Kui, deputy secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, and vice-chairman of the National Commission of Supervision. He holds the second-highest position in China’s fight against corruption, and his speech showcased China’s successful model of combating corruption. He also offered China’s unreserved cooperation in the world’s fight against corruption.

The critical success factor for any anti-corruption agency lies in receiving top political support. This was evident by Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu’s attendance at the symposium and opening speech, highlighting the HKSAR government’s commitment to supporting the ICAC in expanding its international network and cooperating with overseas counterparts to sustain Hong Kong’s pioneering role in combating corruption.

Thus, the symposium, co-hosted by the ICAC and the IAACA, has demonstrated the successful partnership in promoting international anti-corruption cooperation by connecting anti-graft counterparts worldwide to enhance their effectiveness in fighting corruption within the framework of the UNCAC. As the ICAC commissioner pointed out in his speech at the symposium, the inauguration of the Hong Kong International Academy Against Corruption (HKIAAC) in early 2024, marking the commission’s 50th anniversary, represents a solid tripartite partnership among the ICAC, the HKIAAC and the IAACA to advance the international fight against corruption. This tripartite partnership has enabled Hong Kong to reach new heights in the global fight against corruption.

To further promote the international fight against corruption, I, as a former IAACA regional co-coordinator, have three proposals for the IAACA to consider:

First, the IAACA should consider establishing a permanent secretariat in Hong Kong, similar to the one for Interpol, established in Lyon, France. This would avoid disruptions caused by moving the secretariat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction with each newly elected president. The permanent IAACA secretariat could comprise seconded officers from various ACAs, who would also benefit from learning firsthand from the ICAC’s expertise. Establishing a permanent secretariat would enable Hong Kong to take center stage in advancing its international anti-corruption mission.

Second, to further promote business integrity, the IAACA should consider setting up an accreditation program to endorse “certified integrity managers”. Such a program would significantly enhance business integrity, particularly in critical sectors such as finance and construction, by ensuring that every company has a certified expert on business integrity to advise management.

Third, to promote integrity among the younger generation, especially future university graduates, the IAACA should advocate including a mandatory short course on “personal integrity and anti-corruption studies” in all universities worldwide. Such a course would go a long way in equipping our youngsters to resist corruption inducements when they enter the workforce.

The author is a retired Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption deputy commissioner, and an international anti-corruption consultant.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.