Research

The Reforms to the Integrity Management Framework in Hong Kong, Mainland China and Britain

The project entitled Re-designing the Integrity Management Framework in the British, Chinese, and Hong Kong Public Services was a joint research project led by Professors GONG Ting and Ian SCOTT of CityU and Professor Paul HEYWOOD and Dr Jonathan ROSE of the University of Nottingham. The project began on 1 September 2011, and was completed on 28 February 2014.

Rationale

Over the past two decades, significant changes have taken place in Britain, China, and Hong Kong in the way that government integrity is perceived and managed. In all three jurisdictions, the changing forms and characteristics of corruption have led the respective governments to reassess the effectiveness of existing rules and regulations with regard to integrity management. The Civil Service Code has been amended and expanded to capture new forms of conflict of interest and other integrity issues and to provide public servants with more specific guidance on what is appropriate behaviour and conduct. Meanwhile, the institutional changes in all three jurisdictions inspired this research project.

To begin, team members conducted desk-based documentary analysis of primary and secondary legislation and relevant scholarly works. From the literature review, the researchers gathered information on changes in the public service integrity management frameworks across the three jurisdictions. This was followed by intensive data collection activities in each of the three jurisdictions. The research team conducted 32 in-depth interviews in Hong Kong and about 50 on the Mainland in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chongqing, and Changsha. In addition, about 1,000 completed questionnaires were obtained in Mainland China and Hong Kong.

The team then engaged in in-depth analysis of the empirical data to generate academic accounts.

Major findings

Integrity management is about how to maintain high ethical standards in government organisations and is an important component of public governance. Yet, what constitutes the most appropriate and effective way of promoting public integrity remains contested. Two major approaches stand out: rule-based and value-based integrity management. The former requires strict compliance with rules and regulations, while the latter emphasises the importance of ethical awareness and moral competence in guiding the behaviour of public servants. A compliance-based integrity regime relies on mechanisms such as guidelines, procedures, and penalties to manage ethics. Value-based integrity management, on the other hand, promotes ethical values by "soft means" such as ethical leadership, integrity training, and positive incentives. This project has revealed some differences among the three jurisdictions in their respective endeavours to reform the integrity management frameworks. In Mainland China, where authority has been traditionally lodged in the person (i.e., rule of man), a trend of rule-based integrity management seems to have emerged, driven by the imperative of controlling rampant corruption. This is somewhat in contrast with Hong Kong, where integrity management has moved beyond the imposition of regulations to the implanting of ethical values into a classic Weberian bureaucracy. In the United Kingdom, however, whereas there has been a continued commitment to the historical tradition of values-based, ethical self-management of public servants, a tendency to develop a more rules-based regulatory approach is emerging in the wake of various scandals. On the positive side, these reforms have enhanced the ethical foundation of the civil service in each of the jurisdictions, but they have inevitably caused confusion or even ethical dilemmas among public servants. It is a challenge to find the right mix of ruled-based compliance and value-based, individual ethical judgment.

Publications and achievements

Since the project began in 2011, team members have published 21 journal articles and one book; they have also presented papers at more than 25 international conferences. The research team has also organised two international workshops to exchange and disseminate research findings. A symposium based on this conference is forthcoming in the International Journal of Public Management, a top SSCI-indexed journal.