Hong Kong has long been held up as one of the leading examples of a jurisdiction that successfully tackled systemic corruption. Up until the 1970s, Hong Kong had a reputation as one of the most corrupt cities in the world, with bribes solicited in the open and the police force considered to be “the best force in the world that one could buy with money.” But the creation of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in 1974 marked the beginning of a new era, and dramatically changed the situation after only a couple of decades of sustained anti-graft efforts. In 1996, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranked Hong Kong as the 18th least-corrupt among the 54 countries/regions surveyed, putting it on par with Japan (17th) and the U.S. (15th), and Hong Kong has stayed near the top of those rankings ever since.
But with Hong Kong’s reversion to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, fears began to emerge that a “slow invasion of corruption from across border” would take place. In the first two decades after the handover, not much changed, at least not in the international corruption perception rankings. But in the last few years, such fears have been rekindled. Consider a number of troubling cases: