Information Note for the LegCo Panel
on Public Service Meeting on 21 September 1998

Abuse of Power for Personal Gains in the Civil Service


To brief Members that abuse of power by civil servants is not a serious problem and to set out the efforts made by the Administration to prevent such abuse.

The Policy

2. It is a commitment of the Administration to maintain the highest standard of integrity and conduct within the civil service. Such expectation of the standard from civil servants is codified in the Civil Service Regulations which provide clear guidelines and impose specific requirements to prevent officers from abusing their power for personal gains. These include -

  1. civil servants should not abuse their official position to benefit themselves or their families, relatives or friends. They should avoid putting themselves in a position where they may arouse any suspicion of dishonesty, or of using their positions to benefit themselves or favour their families, relatives or friends;

  2. civil servants should not without permission publish or communicate to unauthorised persons any information obtained in his official capacity;

  3. every civil servant should report and avoid conflict of interest situations. Officers in designated posts should report investments in and outside Hong Kong and follow instructions given where necessary to divest or to place certain investments in blind trust to avoid real or apparent conflict of interest situations;

  4. officers should seek permission to undertake outside work;

  5. officers should not accept without permission advantages (including gifts, discounts, loans of money and passages) other than those permitted in the Acceptance of Advantages Notice 1992; and

  6. civil servants should avoid lavish or unreasonably generous entertainment.

3. Statistics for disciplinary action taken against officers for acts of misconduct which involve abuse of power for personal gains are at Annex. These acts of misconduct include conviction under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, Cap 201 (PBO), unauthorised acceptance of advantages from persons with official dealings, unauthorised outside work for persons with official dealings, unauthorised disclosure of official information, abusing Government properties/resources and the use of official information/authority for personal gains etc.

Efforts to Prevent Abuse of Power

4. We maintain a three-pronged approach in our efforts to prevent abuse of power for personal gains by civil servants.


5. Proper delegation of authority is necessary for the efficient functioning of Government activities. Authority requiring delegation includes statutory authority, authority under various Government Regulations and other administrative authority. The Administration has paid particular emphasis on ensuring that clear policies, guidelines and procedures are available to steer the exercise of delegated authority and check and balance functions are built in. In this regard, the Corruption Prevention Department of the ICAC provides advice to Heads of Department to mininize opportunities for abuse of power for personal gains.

6. In addition to internal check and balance, public reporting is also an important source of information to unveil any cases of misuse of authority by civil servants. The public has various channels of complaints and appeals against any improper exercise of authority by officials, including departmental complaint machinery, ICAC, Police, and the Chief Executive.


7. There are various sanctions against abuse of power by civil servants, including :

  1. civil servants abusing power for personal gains may be liable to prosecution under the PBO. For example, it is a criminal offence for a civil servant to solicit or accept any advantage without the general or special permission of the Chief Executive or his delegates (Section 3); and solicit or accept any advantage offered as an inducement to, or reward for, him to use his official position to reciprocate (Section 4);

  2. abuse of power by civil servants involving criminal elements, e.g. falsification of documents, may also lead to criminal proceedings taken by the Police;

  3. officers who are criminally convicted under (a) and (b) above are subject to disciplinary action under the Public Service Administration Order (PS(A)O) (Section 11). Officers who have been convicted of criminal charges under the PBO may be dismissed or compulsorily retired from the civil service. Disciplinary action under PS(A)O will also be taken if an investigation into an officer's offence does not reveal any evidence of criminal nature but there are grounds to support disciplinary action, or if any officer is in breach of any of the Civil Service Regulations. Upon conviction, punishment may range from reprimand to dismissal, depending on the gravity of the cases; and

  4. where the circumstances of the case do not yield sufficient or necessary grounds to support corruption or related charges but the acts involve serious abuse of power with dishonest intent for improper personal advantage which has injured public interest to a considerable extent, consideration may be given to charging the officer with the common law offence of misconduct in the public office. The recent prosecution against three Postal Officers under this common law offence is the first such prosecution in Hong Kong.


8. Parallel to maintaining proper mechanism for the exercise of authority and to administering a sanction mechanism with deterrent effect, we make substantial efforts in the promotion of good standards of conduct in the civil service. Departments are ever alert to the need to maintain staff integrity and have taken positive steps to ensure this is done. We will also keep our existing rules and regulations under constant review and updated to ensure that they provide clear guidelines and suit present-day circumstances.

Division 4
Civil Service Bureau
September 1998


Number of Civil Servants
Disciplined for Abuse of Power
(1995/96 - 1997/98)







Conviction under Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, Cap. 201





Unauthorised acceptance of advantages from persons with official dealings





Unauthorised outside work for persons with official dealings





Unauthorised disclosure of official information





Abuse of Government properties/ resources





Use of official information/authority for personal gains










Note : As a result, 64 officers were warned verbally or in writing; 45 officers punished with a reprimand, severe reprimand, demotion and/or financial penalty; and the remaining 52 officers dismissed or compulsorily retired from the civil service.