Keen on Competition


Keen on Competition

Mr Thomas Cheng speaking at a Consumer Council press conference on the introduction of competition law

Until 14 June 2012 Hong Kong lacked something that many other developed countries have: a competition law. Its long-awaited introduction has been aided in some part by the input of a HKU legal expert.

Mr Thomas Cheng, Associate Professor of Law, has practiced anti-trust law in the U.S. and is also knowledgeable on European competition laws. He is one of the only competition law academics in Hong Kong because, until now, there has been no competition law here. As a result, he was highly prized as an advisor on the issue.

The government recruited him as a consultant in 2006 to advise on the drafting of the competition law. The Consumer Council, which has long advocated for such a law, also recruited him to chair its Competition Policy Committee and to help drum up public support for a law in this area.

"The questions we have been asking ourselves in Hong Kong are ones that I never got asked in the US – why do we need a competition law, how do we want to design the system, who should be allowed to enforce it, what enforcement structure should we use," Mr Cheng says.

"I understand the nuances and implications of various approaches to the law. So when the government was weighing up different options I was able to say what the consequences would be for this option or that option."

Mr Cheng was also able to tell the public about the competition-related problems in Hong Kong and the promise of a competition law for solving them, through his role with the Consumer Council.

"I sought to clarify misunderstandings about competition law and to manage public expectations. It is important that people understand the law cannot eradicate all the deep structural problems in Hong Kong's economy overnight."

He gave close to 50 media interviews and chaired two press conferences, and found that he also learned something in the process.

"Academics are used to giving thorough, complete and, to the media, long-winded responses. The media want sound bites. I had to learn to give them that – to focus on the crux and give the main points in a very succinct manner. It was quite challenging, but it was also an educational experience," he says.

"Usually these advisory roles are mostly behind closed doors but in this case I have had to play a part in publicity. I was able to give something back to the community in a visible manner."

Mr Thomas Cheng received the Faculty Knowledge Exchange Award 2012 of the Faculty of Law for his work on "The Introduction of Competition Law in Hong Kong".