Many organisations, including some political parties, are registered as companies rather than being governed by the Societies Ordinance.
However, a provision in company law allows the Chief Executive in Council to order that such companies be deregistered, said Damien Bailey, corporate practice partner at the law firm Simmons & Simmons.
Organisations choose to register under the Companies Ordinance because it is much less draconian than the Societies Ordinance - which was introduced to crack down on triads.
Mr Bailey said a number of hurdles had to be jumped for the Chief Executive in Council to prohibit a company's activities. For example, he had to be satisfied that a company would, if it were a society, be liable to prohibition under the Societies Ordinance. 'This provision is designed so the Societies Ordinance cannot be bypassed by registering as a company,' Mr Bailey said.
Most chambers of commerce in Hong Kong are non-profit organisations with the aim of promoting a nation's businesses. While they may be independent, they typically enjoy a close working relationship with their consulates and governments back home. Any fees collected are generally put into services for members.
A source involved in the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said it was a registered non-profit organisation: 'We work with the consulate and the trade commissioner to promote events and Canadian businesses in Hong Kong.'
Another source, from an organisation that had signed up with the Arab Chamber of Commerce, said they had taken it on good faith that the body represented the Arab community.