Older members of Hong Kong society must remember the infamous Carrian fraud case and the case of the 26 public housing blocks. These landmark corruption cases not only illustrate the power of the Hong Kong criminal justice system but also highlight Independent Commission Against Corruption's (ICAC) commitment to fighting and preventing corruption to help keep Hong Kong fair, just, stable and prosperous.
The job is never easy. A seemingly simple corruption-facilitated credit card fraud case generated from a few complaints can lead to a lengthy investigation of international money laundering activities involving serious organised crime. "At the beginning we only received little information from complainants. Having analysed more data, we then identified our suspects and discovered that a syndicate was behind the whole thing," recalls Chee Ming-hin, chief investigator (human resources), Operations Department, ICAC.
Different cases follow different procedures. A typical investigation usually starts with a complaint to the ICAC's report centre. Then the investigation begins with interviews with complainants and witnesses, examination of documents and extensive analyses of evidence. According to Mr Chee, these are only the initial preparations. "When it's time for a 'search and arrest operation', we must be fully prepared, and it takes skills in planning such operations," he explains. "The whole investigation process can take weeks to years."
Like many aspiring youngsters who may initially opt for a job in the business sector, Mr Chee started his career at an airline's flight operations control centre after completing a business programme. A genuine interest in law led him to expand his horizons.
After graduation with a law degree, his career really took off in the right direction. "I was determined to use my business and legal knowledge to serve the community," he says. "I joined ICAC in 1996 as an investigator (direct recruit) responsible for carrying out investigations. It was an exciting job. The whole investigation process can be complex but bringing criminals to justice gives me great satisfaction."
A keen volunteer and holder of a private pilot license, Mr Chee has been an aircrew member with the Royal Hong Kong Auxiliary Air Force (now known as the Government Flying Service). With a passion for aviation, he was also once an air traffic controller at Shek Kong airfield. He believes that these volunteering services and his job at the ICAC have certain things in common. "One must possess a sense of mission, a commitment to serve the community, as well as professional skills and knowledge, plus the right attitude in order to be successful," he says.
Now responsible for the commission's human resources management, in particular recruitment, Mr Chee continues to extend the sense of mission in his duties. He notes that although a law degree is not a must, solid work experience is essential for those wishing to join the commission.
For the post of assistant investigator, a Form Five education plus two years' work experience is required. However, Mr Chee cautions that applicants must be mature and able to demonstrate good communications skills.
As for senior positions such as investigators, a recognised degree is the prerequisite and those who possess more than two years' work experience in a supervisory role would stand a better chance of getting the job because such attributes as leadership and strategic planning skills are essential when leading an investigation team.
"Our work has many faces and covers the whole of the society. Experience in specific fields can help during an investigation process. Our investigating officers are from various backgrounds such as engineering, banking and accounting," Mr Chee says.
Besides being physically fit, candidates should also have a "clean" personal record. "We place more emphasise on a person's integrity than most," Mr Chee stresses.
Investigators who have worked a few years in a charter would be posted to different ones from time to time. "This offers them a more comprehensive exposure," Mr Chee says. "Therefore, we must also be knowledgeable and know what's going on in the society."
Life-long learning is encouraged. Besides a range of in-house training and e-learning, leadership training remains a focus. "We offer various in-house programmes and subsidise external courses," Mr Chee says. "There are also many valuable overseas learning experiences with key institutions such as the FBI in the US, the Metropolitan Police in the UK, and other law enforcement bodies in Asia like Thailand and Singapore."
Those who show potential and possess the necessary attributions can expect a clear career path. "First you must show initiative and commitment to the mission in fighting corruption," he stresses. "Also, you must have the determination to becoming a graft fighter because often times you'll encounter difficulties during investigations and face challenges during court trials. You must be persistent." At the end of the day, as Mr Chee concludes, "it's the person's character and attitude that count."