H.K. chief orders inquiry over ex-graft-buster

Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying said Thursday a committee will probe the former head of the territory's graft busting unit who reportedly spent public money on lavish gifts and on treating mainland officials to expensive meals while in office.

The former British colony has effectively cleaned up its widely corrupt image in the 1960s that was rampant within the government and the police force after then British Gov. Murray MacLehose set up an independent organization that has from the beginning operated directly under the government head's control.

China reclaimed control over Hong Kong in 1997.

"Since recent media reports on the handling of official entertainment, gifts and duty visits by the former commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Timothy Tong have given rise to wide community concerns, I decided to establish a four-member Independent Review Committee," Leung said.

The committee will review the commission's regulatory systems and procedures for handling expenses on official entertainment, gifts and duty visits, the compliance of all staff during the term of Tong and give recommendations.

The report will be made public, except the part where legal matters are concerned, within four months, Leung said.

Separately, a complaint has been filed against Tong with the commission, and the Legislative Council public accounts committee will also probe the allegations.

The ICAC said in a statement it welcomed the establishment and pledged to render its full assistance to the committee.

The commission's data show that Tong gave 137 gifts totaling more than HK$200,000 (about $26,000) to mainland prosecutors and officials during his five-year tenure ending 2012, including a stone ornament worth HK$4,140 to the Supreme People's Procuratorate, local daily the Standard reported.

Tong also spent HK$758,000 on business trips, more than 10-fold of any of his predecessors. In particular, Tong spent HK$41,400 on a feast for top mainland prosecutor Cao Jianming, on top of serving five bottles of vintage Maotai, a famed hard liquor in China.

Tong was also reported to be a wine-lover who filled a document cabinet in his office with wine and was said to have signed off on above-the-limit expense claims for himself.

Tong was in March appointed a member of mainland's advisory body, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, soon after he left office.

The allegations against Tong are the most serious to hit the commission's reputable image, and his case is one of a string of corruption allegations that have dogged the territory in recent years.

Former chief secretary for administration Raphael Hui and former development secretary Mak Chai-kwong are facing trials separately on corruption charges, while former Chief Executive Donald Tsang wrapped up his term last year amid bribe-taking criticisms.

Former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao openly urged Leung, before he took office last year, to keep a clean government.