Wilson Lai Wai-nam poses alongside the Chinese national flag during the ninth session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, held in Sharm
El-Sheikh, Egypt, in December 2021. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
Wilson Lai Wai-nam, a senior investigator in the Operations Department of Hong Kong’s antigraft agency, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, had not dealt with this issue before.
During his two-year secondment at the United Nations Office in Vienna, he was stunned and overwhelmed when the negotiations on a draft bill he was involved in were abruptly stalled when a consensus was in sight.
The game changer that broke the deadlock would be Lai himself and the country he was representing.
As one of the five young professionals from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region sent by China to take up various posts in the UN, Lai had been aware and proud of his Chinese identity every moment he was there, particularly in moments like this.
Wilson Lai Wai-nam was filled with the national pride of having a powerful country at his back. In Lai’s eyes, it is not a job for every country. Apparently, to Lai, a country needs to have the power and international status to be a mover and shaker in the international arena
The state that was sponsoring the bill approached Lai and his colleague, as Chinese representatives, and asked them to find out what was troubling the member state that was holding up the bill. The sponsor state believed that there would be room for conversation between the other member state and China.
It turned out that the other state had some doubts about the timing of the bill. A subsequent proposal asked that the bill be delayed, and it eventually successfully passed with the help of colleagues from China’s Foreign Ministry.
It was at that moment that Lai felt the powerful role and influence that his country was playing in international affairs. Even better — he was part of that influence.
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He was filled with the national pride of having a powerful country at his back. In Lai’s eyes, it is not a job for every country. Apparently, to Lai, a country needs to have the power and international status to be a mover and shaker in the international arena.
Had China not gotten involved, it would have taken more time to pull off the negotiations and reach a consensus, he said.
Lai took it as one of the living embodiments of how China’s nonaggressive diplomacy is being accepted and recognized by many other countries and regions on the global stage.
In 2019, Lai and the other four young officers from Hong Kong, who stood out from the city’s approximately 17,000 public servants after passing three rounds of interviews, was recommended by the central government as representatives of China to participate in the United Nations Junior Professional Officer Programme
Lai was among the first batch of young officials from the SAR to be sent to the UN. In 2019, Lai and the other four young officers from Hong Kong, who stood out from the city’s approximately 17,000 public servants after passing three rounds of interviews, was recommended by the central government as representatives of China to participate in the United Nations Junior Professional Officer Programme.
The program recruits officers from the UN’s member states to work at UN agencies with a two-year tenure. It was also the first time that officers from the Hong Kong SAR had been allowed to take part in the program.
“We can feel the weight and attention that central government has attached to us via this program,” Lai said.
“We can join this program thanks to the arrangement of ‘one country, two systems,’ ” he added.
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In view of Lai’s portfolio on fighting corruption in the city, he was recommended to join the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna for two years, starting from March 2020.
Lai (second row, left) was surprised when his colleagues at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime threw an online farewell party for him as he completed a two-year program at the UNODC and prepared to return to Hong Kong in January this year. A
fresh COVID-19 outbreak in Vienna, Austria, prevented Lai from saying goodbye to them face-to-face. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
UNODC is a UN secretariat for facilitating international cooperation in combating corruption and economic crimes. It serves all 189 parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, including China, by providing secretarial services, promoting the convention’s implementation among parties and giving technical support in fighting corruption.
No case investigation and no law enforcement waited for Lai at the UN. Instead, his new desk was always covered by meeting summaries and research papers. He compiled some teaching materials on the financial investigation to help some countries form a better anti-corruption strategy, Lai said, adding that he also participated in a handful of corruption-related studies.
As a representative of China, we should strive to serve the people of the world and let other countries see the ability and quality of Chinese people.
Wilson Lai Wai-nam, senior investigator in the Operations Department of the Independent Commission Against Corruption
At the UNODC, some topics and bills need to undergo negotiation between countries. The job requires its secretaries to have adequate knowledge of international relations so that they can define the core interests of all parties and help them find common ground.
“That was the hardest part for me,” the young investigator recalled, explaining that young public officers in Hong Kong can seldom participate in external affairs. At the negotiation table, the gap between him and those who had diplomatic experiences was crystal clear, he added.
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“As a representative of China, we should strive to serve the people of the world and let other countries see the ability and quality of Chinese people,” Lai said.
Lai completed the two-year program and returned to Hong Kong in January. Dusting off his old desk at North Point’s ICAC headquarters, the senior investigator once again devotes himself to the front line of the anti-corruption fight, full of new energy.
Lai now pays more attention to global issues and international relations. As the ICAC has been active in international cooperation against crime in recent years, Lai expects the diplomatic skills and knowledge he learned in Vienna can be put to good use in the future
But his experience in the UN has left an imprint on the young official.
Lai now pays more attention to global issues and international relations. As the ICAC has been active in international cooperation against crime in recent years, Lai expects the diplomatic skills and knowledge he learned in Vienna can be put to good use in the future.
Lai said he also hopes the central government will recommend more Hong Kong people take short-term jobs in international organizations, helping them better understand international affairs and the interests of the country.
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For Lai, he could still remember the days of standing in front of the huge fountain before the United Nations’ office buildings in Vienna. Amid the 180-some flags hoisted at the poles there, Lai would always look up and search for the blush of red — the Chinese national flag.
Lai said that one thing that has become of him after his stay in the UN is that China, as a major world power will have a bigger role to play on the international stage, and that the Hong Kong SAR, as part of the country, can to be a part of that.
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