A pro-Beijing IT industry organisation is offering a HK$50 plan to allow members of a new e-commerce organisation to gain membership. Membership may give them the right to vote in the Information Technology functional constituency in the coming Legislative Council election.

At an annual event of the E-Commerce Association of Hong Kong (ECAHK) – which was established last August – a notice was shown that members of the organisation can apply for membership of Internet Professionals Association (iProA) for HK$50, discounted from the original HK$500 fee.

The notice also said: “Eligible persons can register as voters of the Information Technology functional constituency before 2 May 2016, to vote in the Legislative Council election this year.”

The notice at the ECAHK event.
The notice at the ECAHK event. Photo: Frontline Tech Workers.

Frontline Tech Workers, an industry professional group which posted the notice online, questioned whether the membership sharing scheme was an attempt to buy votes, calling iProA “the biggest vote rigging site of the pro-Beijing camp”.

ECAHK’s president Stanley Lee confirmed to Apple Daily that the scheme exists. iProA’s president Witman Hung Wai-man told the newspaper that ECAHK had proposed a membership sharing scheme since its establishment last year.

Vetting procedure 

Hung added that iProA’s membership fee was reduced to HK$250 for a long time, and a HK$50 fee for membership sharing schemes was common with other partner organisations. He said that iProA was “very careful” in confirming qualifications and work experience of those applying to be members.

A few people are present in the management structure of both organisations. For instance, iProA’s vice-president Eric Yeung Chuen-sing and deputy honorary secretary Gary Yeung Man-yui are ECAHK’s chief consultant and vice-president respectively.

Eric Yeung was rumoured to be running for LegCo’s IT sector seat in September against the incumbent Charles Mok. Gary Yeung was a former district councillor of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong Party.

Charles Mok. File Photo: Facebook/Charles Mok
Charles Mok. File Photo: Facebook/Charles Mok

Unclear process

IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok told Apple Daily that it was common practice for organisations to launch membership sharing schemes to allow their members to become voters during an election year.

But he questioned the transparency of the process which verifies the professional qualifications of applicants, saying that some may not be really working in the industry: “The public will have their opinions on whether it is fair if organisations allow someone to become a voter for several dozens of dollars.”

He added that the Registration and Electoral Office should follow up on the incident, issue guidance and investigate proactively to maintain the fairness of elections.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Christopher Chung with the founder of World Trade United Foundation, who had claimed to be a "living buddha".
Pro-Beijing lawmaker Christopher Chung with the founder of World Trade United Foundation, who had claimed to be a “living buddha”. Photo: World Trade United Foundation.

Vote sharing

iProA had been involved in another membership sharing scheme with Hong Kong Information Technology Joint Council (ITJC) – another organisation which members can register to vote in the IT functional constituency –  just before the 2012 Legislative Council election, reported by Apple Daily then.

A requirement to be an IT sector voter through ITJC was that the person must have been a member of the organisation for at least a year. However, a member of iProA can register to vote without such a requirement- thus an ITJC member who joined less than a year ago could register to vote by joining as a member of iProA, also for HK$50.

In April last year, Next Magazine reported that World Trade United Foundation – a foundation started by a person who had claimed to be a “living buddha” – had a membership sharing scheme with ITJC.

Several pro-Beijing lawmakers, including the DAB’s Christopher Chung Shu-kun, Elizabeth Quat and Starry Lee Wai-king, are listed as honorary presidents of World Trade United Foundation.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.