Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing chairman Charles Lee Yeh-kwong yesterday dismissed criticism from legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing over his possible candidacy for a top job at the securities watchdog, calling it irrelevant and premature. Mr Lee, a one-time executive councillor under former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, has been widely tipped to become the first non-executive chairman of the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC). He must resign his HKEx post in April next year after serving the maximum term of six years. Last week, Frontier legislator Ms Lau said in a Legco bill committee meeting held to discuss the proposed new management structure at the SFC that she would oppose Mr Lee's selection for the non-executive chairmanship, saying his extensive business relationships in Hong Kong would produce too many conflicts of interest. 'There are always conflicts of interest,' Mr Lee told the South China Morning Post during his visit to Beijing last week. 'If you switch on the light, you are using the services of an electricity company. When you buy water from the supermarket, it may belong to Li Ka-shing. 'If you count all these relationships as conflicts of interest, no one would be able to take up an SFC job.' Formerly an accountant and lawyer, Mr Lee helped many listed firms go public in the 1970s, which in turn landed him directorships on numerous company boards. He resigned all directorships when he joined Mr Tung's cabinet in 1998. Mr Lee declined to say whether he would take the SFC job if offered but said he was not ruling anything out. 'The government is still seeking legislative approval to split the current role of the SFC chairman into a non-executive chairman and a chief executive. Only if the law is passed will the government start looking for candidates,' he said. 'I'll think about it if and when the government approaches me.' Mr Lee also demurred when asked about the proposed salary of $702,000 a year, which the Hong Kong Society of Financial Analysts has called too low to be credible. 'I am doing these jobs for public service and not for money,' Mr Lee said. Mr Lee earns $240,000 a year as HKEx chairman and donates all of it to charity. He is also chairman of the Mandatory Provident Fund Authority, an unpaid role he has held since 2000. Even if approached for the SFC job, Mr Lee said he would not leave HKEx earlier than April next year. As current SFC chairman Andrew Sheng will leave in September, observers have speculated that Mr Lee might resign from HKEx sooner. During last week's bill committee, legislators Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee and Ronny Tong Ka-wah called on the government to clearly define the two new SFC leadership positions in law to reduce the chances of a power struggle. A government source, however, said there was no need. 'It will reduce flexibility if we clearly define the two roles in the law. It is common sense that the chairman will handle the policy issues and the chief executive will be responsible for the daily operations of the commission,' the source said. 'If the SFC considers it necessary, it could define the work of the chairman and the chief executive via a memorandum of understandings in future.'