Rich Pickings at the Fruit Market — Is It a Crash to the Icac?

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Topic︰Rich Pickings at the Fruit Market —
Is it a crash to the ICAC?

Introduction

Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has been a model for emulation throughout the world. When people studying the corruption problem of Hong Kong in 1960s and 1970s, most of them will study the Godber case. Few of them will discuss about the Rich Pickings at the Fruit Market. In the 1970s, ICAC’s investigation into the Rich Pickings at the Fruit Market met with a debilitating strong reaction form those allegedly involved. Governor MacLehose granted a partial amnesty to those allegedly involved to avoid a more vigorous reaction. There were two schools of opinion towards the Rich Pickings at the Fruit Market and the grant of the partial amnesty. A sect of historians argues that the Rich Pickings at the Fruit Market and the grant of the partial amnesty was a crash to the ICAC. Such as Professor LIU Shu-yong, a historian, stated in his book that the grant of the partial amnesty negatively affected the morale of the ICAC, especially the Operations Department. This sect of historians believes that the grant of the partial amnesty interrupted ICAC’s investigation and wavered people’s faith to the ICAC. Another sect of historians argues that the Rich Pickings at the Fruit Market and the grant of the partial amnesty caused both positive and negative affection to the ICAC and those negative affection was not such as to cause a crash. For instance, the positive affection was the Rich Pickings at the Fruit Market was helping in the smash of syndicated corruption and the improvement of public officials corruption. And the negative affection was the Rich Pickings at the Fruit Market led to the confrontation in ICAC Headquarter and the grant of the “partial amnesty”. Which school of opinion assesses the Rich Pickings at the Fruit Market and the grant of the partial amnesty in a realistic way? And is the Rich Pickings at the Fruit Market is a crash to the ICAC? To find out the answer, we will explore the background of the Rich Pickings at the Fruit Market and affections to the ICAC first. Afterward, we will analyze whether the Rich Pickings at the Fruit Market is a crash to the ICAC.

Background

In 1975, a narcotic retail syndicate emerged in the Yau Ma Tei Fruit Market quietly. It began as a modest and clandestine operation. Gradually, the illicit business grew in volume, with only the slightest pretence. The cover-up by the police who had taken bribes allowed the syndicate to offend the law brazenly. Doubtless, such barefaced operation would sooner catch the eyes of the authorities. In 1976, an operation by the Police Narcotics Bureau not only smashed the drug syndicate and nabbed the mastermind and his henchmen, but also brought to light the scale and extent of corruption among law enforcement officers. Afterwards, the ICAC took over the investigation and sprang into action. After a few months, more than 200 people were detained for questioning, among them police constables, station sergeants, dangerous drug squad officers and anti-smuggling squad members. Such an arrest operations evoked the resentment of the police officers. Some of them even opted to vent their resentment at the ICAC. Soon after the arrest operations, several police officers prepared a petition letter listing their complaints against the ICAC to the Police Commissioner, Brian Slevin. On October 28, more than 2,000 policemen marched to the Police Headquarters to hand the petition to the Police Commissioner's office. Elsewhere, a group of about 40 police officers made for the ICAC Operations Department Headquarters. The brief confrontation resulted in some damages.

The confrontation in the ICAC Headquarter and the march to the Police Headquarters caused some turbulence to the society. Governor MacLehose called on several emergency meetings in the following days to seek ways to thwart their threat to the law and order. Finally, on 15 November,...
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