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Making Hong Kong companies liable for foreign corruption

Bryane Michael (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

Journal of Financial Crime

ISSN: 1359-0790

Article publication date: 5 January 2015




The purpose of this article is to assess the extent to which Hong Kong’s laws deter its companies from engaging in corruption and bribery abroad.


A mix of economics, public administration, management and legal analysis was used to assess weaknesses in Hong Kong’s laws governing the prohibition of bribe payments abroad.


Hong Kong does not explicitly criminalise corporate bribery abroad. Companies – as legal persons – can not be found guilty of corruption. It is argued that Hong Kong’s Legislative Council should amend various laws to modernise Hong Kong’s approach to tackling corruption committed by its companies abroad. The various approaches lawmakers can take towards assigning responsibility for corruption to companies are presented. The approaches that prosecutors at the Department of Justice can take to adopt prosecutorial methods like those used in other upper-income jurisdictions and the ways that Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) can assist in this work are also described.

Practical implications

This research has practical findings for Hong Kong’s policymakers, law firms and companies which operate in Hong Kong. For policymakers, we describe legal changes Hong Kong’s legislators will likely make in the years ahead and the preferred ways of engaging in such change. For law firms, we describe the legal changes coming to Hong Kong which legal advisors will need to advise their clients on. For companies, we describe changes that companies operating in Hong Kong will likely need to comply with in the future.

Social implications

This paper shows that when Hong Kong adopts best practice in the field of corporate criminalisation, Hong Kong’s role in “exporting” corruption will likely fall.


This article describes a set of legal changes which will change the way Hong Kong treats corruption. The literature tends to glamorise Hong Kong’s anti-corruption work. It is shown that its law falls far behind other jurisdictions, as well as how “treating companies like people” in the case of Hong Kong will likely change the way Hong Kong’s prosecutors think about crime and criminal perpetrators.



Michael, B. (2015), "Making Hong Kong companies liable for foreign corruption", Journal of Financial Crime, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 126-150.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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