Hong Kong's former anti-corruption chief cleared of wrongdoing

HONG KONG - Hong Kong has cleared its former anti-corruption chief of criminal wrongdoing, saying there is not enough evidence to prosecute him, the Department of Justice said on Wednesday.

Timothy Tong, the former Commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), had been accused of entertaining mainland officials too often and too lavishly during his five-year tenure to 2012.

Tong denied any wrongdoing. "In the present case, the decision not to prosecute Mr Tong is solely based upon insufficiency of evidence," the Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement.

"The fact that the DOJ decides not to commence prosecution on the ground of insufficiency of evidence should not be interpreted as an endorsement of Mr. Tong's conduct or any part thereof," it added.

The ICAC, credited with ending the rampant official graft that flourished during Hong Kong's colonial era, endorsed the DOJ decision and said in a statement it would not pursue any independent investigations.

It also said it had tightened rules on spending, including on official entertainment, gifts and overseas visits.

Inquiries by Hong Kong lawmakers found that Tong had lead 22 official ICAC delegations to mainland cities and Macau while he was commissioner, costing a combined total of almost HK$2 million (S$47,600).

The visits included multiple meetings with China's top prosecutor and dozens of senior national and provincial officials.

After he left the ICAC, Tong was appointed to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a prestigious advisory body to the mainland government.

Tong confirmed he had also hosted meals for mainland officials from the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong and officials from the Communist Party's United Front Work Department.

Hong Kong returned from British rule to China in 1997 under a "one-country, two-systems" formula intended to preserve the financial hub's autonomy.