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British legal culture and colonial governance : the attack on corruption in Hong Kong, 1968–1974
Britain and the World
  • Mark HAMPTON, Department of History, Lingnan University, Hong Kong
Document Type
Journal article
Publication Date
Edinburgh University Press Ltd.
  • Fugitive Offenders Act,
  • Prevention of Bribery Ordinance,
  • Murray MacLehose,
  • Peter Godber,
  • Elsie Elliott (Elsie Tu),
  • Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC)

This article examines the Hong Kong Government's vigorous attack on corruption in the late 1960s and early 1970s as an example of the transmission of British legal and political culture abroad. Previous studies of Hong Kong's anti-corruption efforts have understandably situated them in the context of local history, including both Chinese folk culture and the Hong Kong Government's need to rebuild legitimacy following major civil disturbances between 1966 and 1968. This article does not disagree with these emphases, but argues that the attack on corruption is equally a part of British cultural history. Drawing on newly-available archival material, this article shows that longstanding British antipathy to corruption provided political and legal values on which Hong Kong's Colonial officials drew when the local context made the tackling of corruption politically advantageous. At the same time, though, British legal culture was as much an obstacle as an inspiration to anti-corruption efforts. In particular, the Hong Kong Government's Prevention of Bribery Ordinance conflicted with British legal values concerning the rights of the accused, and the British Fugitive Offenders Act hindered London's ability to support the extradition of a notoriously corrupt police official, Peter Godber. This article thus underscores the clash between British legal values and the practical necessities of governing in Britain's last major colony.

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Citation Information
Hampton, M. A. (2012). British legal culture and colonial governance: The attack on corruption in Hong Kong, 1968–1974. Britain and the World, 5(2), 223-239. doi: 10.3366/brw.2012.0055