A much criticised yet important component of Hong Kong’s pick-and-mix electoral system has come under renewed attack after details emerged which critics say confirm a long-held suspicion it favours big business. A study of the electoral register for the catering functional constituency – one of the city’s 28 traditional functional constituencies – has revealed that around one in 10 corporate voters have links to four major conglomerates in the SAR. Hong Kong lawmaker fears Beijing behind jump in voters in IT functional constituency The information has fuelled criticism of the trade-based component of the electoral system, which was set up by the British colonial authorities 30 years ago and allows companies and professional bodies to register as voters. Out of the 70 seats in the Legislative Council, 30 will be returned through traditional functional constituencies from a voter base of 239,195 this year.. Apart from electing lawmakers, the trade-based system is also used for returning members of the election committee, which selects the chief executive. According to provisional voter statistics released on Wednesday, 5,528 voters are registered in the catering sector for the upcoming Legco race. This is 30 per cent fewer than the number in the 2012 election. More than 100 of the 1,004 corporate voters registered give addresses connected with the Tao Heung Group, Cafe de Coral Group, Fulum Group and Victoria Harbour Restaurant Group. A total of 56 companies registered using the Fulum group address – the highest number of companies under a single address in the catering sector. Twenty-eight companies signed up using the headquarters of Cafe de Coral in Fo Tan, with two executive directors from the restaurant giant listed among the directors. Another 22 and 15 companies respectively are registered under the head office of the Tao Heung Group and Victoria Harbour Restaurant group. Three out of four Hong Kong youngsters pledge to vote in Legco elections, even though they are unhappy with council’s performance Dr Chung Kim-wah, a political scientist at Polytechnic University, said the phenomenon stems from an “unfair mechanism” and a loophole which the government has refused to plug. “A corporation can register 100 votes if it wants under the current system,” he said. “With fewer voters in the catering sector this year, it would be easier for the big corporations to manipulate the game.” Steve Ng Wing-tak, an “umbrella soldier” who is considering challenging the incumbent catering sector lawmaker Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, said the situation underscored the problematic nature of functional constituencies, which in effect allowed conglomerates to control the polls. But Cheung said there was nothing wrong with the practice. He stressed that since the companies in question had numerous branches, there was no problem with them holding multiple votes in the sector. The lawmaker insisted that since each company registered in the sector was required to hold a food business licence and run an actual business – which requires large investment – there was no room for vote-rigging. “My sector is the least problematic ... because it has a very high threshold for entry,” Cheung said. A representative of Fulum group said the firm complied with the rules when registering. “Due to business need and industry norm, we establish and operate every restaurant through a separate Hong Kong registered company. Under the election law ... each company has the right to register as a voter,” the representative said. Cafe de Coral group, meanwhile, said it set up many companies “to develop different businesses”. “It is purely a business decision,” a spokesperson said. Victoria Harbour Restaurant group said the companies registered as voters complied with statutory requirements. Tao Heung group did not respond to questions from the Post . The Registration and Electoral Office said it had ensured that all registered voters in the catering sector were current holders of relevant licences and therefore fulfilled statutory requirements.