China Mobile

Hong Kong Communications Authority chairman quits after failing to disclose China Mobile shares

‘This is the best way to preserve the credibility of the Communications Authority,’ says Huen Wong, admitting that even holding ‘a single share’ in a related company should be disclosed

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 February, 2018, 7:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 February, 2018, 11:55pm

The chairman of the Hong Kong Communications Authority has stepped down from his post after failing to disclose shares he bought, which included China Mobile stock.

Huen Wong said he had failed to declare an interest after a “portfolio of shares was purchased under [his] name” two years before he assumed his role.

In a statement on Monday, Wong, a former president of Hong Kong’s Law Society, said he had submitted his resignation to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Friday, with immediate effect.

“Due to my oversight, I did not make a timely declaration in accordance with the requirements,” he said in the statement.

He said his “inadvertent” omission had not affected the work of the Communications Authority, nor had it resulted in any conflict of interest. “However, it is incumbent upon me to adhere strictly to the requirement,” he added.

I think this is a very regrettable and unfortunate incident. It could well undermine people’s perception toward the work the Communications Authority has been doing
Charles Mok, lawmaker for the IT sector

A separate statement, on the government’s website, said Lam had accepted Wong’s resignation and that a replacement would be sought.

Wong, a solicitor by profession, was less than halfway through his two-year term as chairman, having been appointed by then chief executive Leung Chun-ying on March 31 last year.

In a press conference on Monday evening, Wong struck a contrite tone but did not reveal how many shares in China Mobile he had bought.

He admitted even holding a “single share” in a related company should be disclosed.

“Rules, ultimately, are rules that need to be stuck to,” said Wong. “I should undertake the consequences of failing to disclose the holdings of these shares, and a resignation seems to be the appropriate thing to do.

“I have considered all the disclosure requirements, internal guidelines as well as rules related to disclosures of holdings of shares. This is the best way to preserve the credibility of the Communications Authority.”

Wong did not say when he bought or sold the stocks in question. Shares of China Mobile have shed about 40 per cent in the last two years to trade at HK$74. The broader Hang Seng Index has gained 15 per cent during the same period.

Charles Mok, a lawmaker for the IT sector, said: “This is a very regrettable and unfortunate incident.

“Although it is hard to know if there are any major wrongdoings of Wong yet, it could well undermine people’s perception toward the work the Communications Authority has been doing.”

Mok said Wong’s successor “could be anybody”, but added that it might be someone from outside the industry, in the interests of maintaining neutrality.

It is the second setback of the past few months for the Communications Authority, the agency responsible for licensing and regulating Hong Kong’s broadcasting and telecommunications industries.

In December, the Court of Final Appeal ruled the authority had overcharged telecommunications network operators for their annual licence fees.

The court’s six justices unanimously found the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development and the Communications Authority “fell into specified errors of law” in prescribing the licence fees.

That marked a significant victory for the appellant, HKT, the telecoms arm of Richard Li Tzar-kai’s PCCW, which had mounted a legal challenge against the government’s licence fees in an application for judicial review before the city’s High Court in 2013.