Thursday, July 19, 2012

scmp: 41 voting firms registered at same address

41 voting firms registered at same address

The voters' list for September's Legco elections reflects a quirk of the city's electoral law: 41 companies that will vote for trade-based seats are all registered at the same commercial address. Twenty-eight other firms all share the same address, too.

This may seem odd, coming so soon after the government's unprecedented crackdown on vote-rigging deprived 216,000 people of their voting rights - after multiple voters used the same addresses in last year's district council poll.

The practice is illegal for individual voters who give addresses where they do not reside, but acceptable for companies voting for functional seats.

Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University, said the suspicious phenomenon among trade-based voters arose from manipulation of grey areas in the law.

"I can only say it further exposed the loophole of functional constituencies, yet it is allowed under the law. The only solution would be to scrap the trade-based seats altogether," said Choy.

The Registration and Electoral Office released its final list of voters on Wednesday. Among the 3.47 million voters eligible to vote in September's election, about 7 per cent, or 240,711, can vote in the functional constituencies - the 28 trade-based and professional sectors in which companies can vote.

In the catering sector, which comprises 7,800 voters - largely individuals - there are at least 41 voter-companies registered to the same address as a Well Keen International Ltd, related to the Itacho Sushi chain. The address is Unit 707-709 on the seventh floor of Lu Plaza, Kwun Tong, Kowloon.

Some of the 41 companies also have similar names, such as Wise Faith, Wise Genius, Wise Hero, Wise Master, and so on.

Itacho Sushi did not respond to a request for information yesterday.

A further 28 voter-companies are registered at 15th floor, Luk Hop Industrial Building, San Po Kong, Kowloon. Some of those companies' names include China Spring Development, China Speed Development and China Professional Asia.

While it is unclear whether the large collection of companies belongs to the same chain or owner, the links are more apparent in some other business sectors.

Shanghainese restaurant chain Wang Jia Sha has registered six of its branches as voters, while the Crystal Jade Culinary Concepts Holding registered nine branches.

The Liberal Party's Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, who registered on Wednesday to run for another term in the catering sector, said: "What the companies are doing is completely fine. You just do not understand the election."

He was referring to the electoral law, which allows all holders of food business licences to become voters. "McDonald's has more than 200 outlets but it only holds one licence as one company, so it is up to what the company wants to do."

However, Dr Li Pang-kwong of Lingnan University doubted whether the administration had done enough to check on the functional voters' qualifications. "Before the abolition of functional constituencies, at least the law should be amended so that all voters are made up of individuals, instead of individuals together with companies," he said.

In the 6,700-strong information and technology sector, at least 10 branch companies of telecom tycoon Richard Li Tzar-kai's PCCW (SEHK: 0008) are registered. They include PCCW-HKT Business Services, PCCW-HKT Network Services, PCCW Ltd and PCCW Global Ltd.

Charles Mok, the candidate in the IT functional constituency, said there was no way of verifying if voter-companies were just shell companies.

But he said only 5 per cent of votes come from companies, so their splitting the vote between company branches would have little impact.

Samson Tam Wai-ho, who is considering running for another term as the IT sector lawmaker, suggested that in the long term, the functional electorate should be reformed into an all-individual model to eliminate loopholes.

Entertainment tycoon Steven Lo Kit-sing's company, BMA Information Technology, a subsidiary of BMA Investment Group, is also registered in the IT constituency.

However, Lo's influence appeared to carry across sectors, since five of BMA's other branches registered as voters in the Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication sectors - such as BMA Records and BMA Entertainment.

Counting votes: a closer look at key sectors


At least 41 companies are registered to the same address: Unit 707-709, 7/F Lu Plaza 2 Wing Yip Street Kwun Tong, Kowloon.
At least 28 companies are registered to 15/F Luk Hop Industrial Building, 8 Luk Hop Street, San Po Kong, Kowloon.
Pacific Coffee has three votes - as Pacific Coffee Company, PCC Investment and PCC Investment (II).
Shanghainese restaurant chain Wang Jia Sha has six branches registered.
At least nine Crystal Jade Culinary Concepts restaurants are registered.

At least 10 PCCW companies, including PCCW-HKT Business Services, PCCW Limited and PCCW Global Limited are registered.
At least five companies in the Hutchison (SEHK: 0013) conglomerate, such as the Hutchison Telecommunications and Hutchison GlobalCentre, are registered.
A firm called Starbucks is a registered IT voter, not in the catering sector.

Six Broadway Cinemas are registered.
Five BMA Investment Group firms, including BMA Records and BMA Entertainment, are registered. BMA Information Technology is a voter in the IT sector.

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