No one is immune from the power of corruption. Of course there are orders of magnitude and people can be corrupted in little ways that do not seem to matter, but many times the people that are corrupted are the very ones who are supposed to be manning the public trust. The very people citizens hope are the most incorruptible are, unfortunately, the most susceptible. Lord Acton said that "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you super-add the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority."[footnoteRef:1] Because these people have power they tend to believe that they are somehow above the law that they set for other people. Society sometimes seems to be made for the politicians and large business owners who control most of the money, or, at the very least, the access to it, but that is not the case. [1: Lord Acton, Historical Essays and Studies (The MacMillan Company, New York 1907)]
In the modern world, nations have begun to take steps to curb the power of the individual and the ability of the state to abuse the power that the people give to it. However, there are always methods for defeating any strain of law that one disagrees with. The law, in a republic, is designed to protect the people both from themselves and from one another. In fact, the only true job of government is protection of the people. A standing army provides some of this protection because the individual, in his or her freedom, does not have the individual means to protect themselves from invasion by a foreign power (for example). Thus, the government is tasked with providing the individual the protections that they cannot manifest in and of themselves. This is a central premise to the idea of republican government all the way back to Socrates. American president Ronald Reagan is quoted as saying that "Government's first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives."[footnoteRef:2] The problem with this is that while the government has this mandate, there are too many times that it is not adequately carried out because the bulk of corruption practices are somehow tied to political officials. [2: Ronald Reagan. 'Speech to the AFL-CIO Annual Conference' (National Conference of the Building and Construction Trades, AFL-CIO 1981)]
The problem then is not with an individual government or the concept of government, but with people. Just like children, sometimes people have to be told what they can and cannot do. Laws are put in place because some individuals cannot govern themselves and need further guidance to make sure that they do what is right. This paper is concerned with how corruption happens, why it happens and how it is being managed by different governments. Of course the main focus is on the government of Hong Kong and the recent corruption that has seemed to be endemic in that body. Although there are measures in place to deal with the corruption that is happening, for some reason these measures have had little consequence in some instances. The goal is to determine if the measures taken by other governments have been more effective, and to see what can be learned from them.[footnoteRef:3] [3: Fabio Mendez and Fecundo Sepulveda. 'What do we Talk About When we Talk About Corruption?' (2009) 26 JLEO 493, 514]
What is corruption
To open this topic, many questions have to be answered. The first obstacle is a clear definition of what corruption is. The Oxford Dictionary defines corrupt (of which corruption is a derivative) as:
having or showing a willingness to act dishonestly in return for money or personal gain & #8230; evil or morally depraved & #8230; made unreliable by errors or alterations & #8230; in a state of decay; rotten or putrid & #8230; cause to act dishonestly in return for money or personal gain & #8230; change or debase by making errors or unintentional alterations & #8230; infect; contaminate.[footnoteRef:4] [4: Corrupt (Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford 2012)]
All of these meanings have some bearing on this discussion because they all consider the term from a different standpoint. However, the most apropos is the first. Corruption in a political sense is that which acts "dishonestly for & #8230; personal gain." However there are other definitions of corruption which better fit the present discussion.
The nature of politics is that politicians seek favor from each other to get a favorite bill passed, or to garner some support for their region. This type of influence peddling is common and not seen as corruption by many in the political sphere because it stays within the walls of the legislature. However, and exact definition of what corruption is has been written into code by the United Nations. This body looks at corruption as "The misuse of public power, office or authority for private benefit -- through bribery, extortion, influence peddling, nepotism, fraud, speed money or embezzlement."[footnoteRef:5] Thus, if a politician is engaging in using his or her influence to actually assist the people of his or her district, they are not being corrupt. The only time that these actions can be considered corrupt are if there is some personal gain involved. Therein lies the problem though. [5: Jon S.T. Quah, 'Combatting Corruption in Singapore: What can be Learned?' (2001) 9 Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management 29, 35]
In almost any endeavor wherein any of the above is used, there is some personal gain to be had. A legislator or executive may say that they are simply trying to gain something for their constituency, but they are likely to gain something for themselves also (such as another term in office). Using political office in any way that can be construed as personal gain is wrong. Of course, this can also be taken too far. If the politician honestly believes that they are working for the people that they represent rather for themselves (and it can be proven) then they are above reproach. Unfortunately, this type of altruistic behavior seems to be far from the norm these days. The people involved in the discussions to follow have been engaged in corrupt practices because they want to gain, on some level, something that they do not have.
The former Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, was not involved in the most recent elections that unseated him, but he was a central figure in what the elections were about. It was found that Tsang "himself had accepted favors from Hong Kong tycoons - from a special seat on their private yachts and jets to a discount price on a lavish penthouse apartment across the border in the mainland city of Shenzhen."[footnoteRef:6] He was a trusted official who had been prominent in Hong Kong politics for many years serving as Chief executive from 2005 until earlier this year. The people of the principality believed that he was working in the best interests of the province although there had been rumors of problems during his time as the Chief Executive. Unfortunately, Tsang fell under the spell of the power he wielded as much as many men and women who have come before him. He was influenced by the lure of money to give special advantage to certain businessmen. The businessmen were cited in a BBC story as "Mr. Hui, the Kwok brothers and two other businessmen face eight charges including conspiracy to offer advantages to a public servant and misconduct in public office."[footnoteRef:7] Primarily, the businessmen were asking for advance information regarding properties in Hong Kong that would be available for speculation. The businessmen sought to increase their already vast fortunes by learning what was happening ahead of time. The corruption on the part of Mr. Tsang and other government officials was to peddle the information they had access to for perks from the wealthy businessmen. [6: Kent Ewing, 'Corruption Cloud Hangs over Hong Kong' Asia Times (Hong Kong 3 April 2003)] [7: Juliana Liu, 'Thomas and Raymond Kwok Charged in Corruption Scandal' BBC News Business (London 13 July 2012]
Another scandal involved the hand-picked successor of Mr. Tsang, Henry Tang Ying-yen, who was also influenced by wealthy men and women who wanted his influence in further deals that they were considering. Tang was "favored by the business community" and he "confessed to marital infidelity during the campaign and admitted to building a massive illegal structure, dubbed an "underground palace," beneath one of his homes."[footnoteRef:8] The turnover of power between Tsang and Tang never happened because the people voted for an alternative who ran a campaign based on ensuring that the government would be incorrupt. [8: Ibid]
It may seem from the above definitions and examples that corruption itself is inherent in certain people, but it seems to be something that grows in the men and women who become corrupted rather than something that is an innate character flaw. One…
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