The eight new members have business links between themselves, but say they will not come in the way of their duty The eight new members of the Executive Council have sought to allay public fears of possible conflicts of interest despite collectively having directorships in over 50 local and overseas companies and extensive business links with one another. ?I have already resigned as a director from four private companies prior to my appointment,? Bank of East Asia chairman David Li Kwok-po said. Victor Lo Chung-wing, who chairs the board of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation and has long known Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yamkuen, stressed he would abide by the council?s rules on declaration of interests. Mr Lo is also chairman of publicly listed Gold Peak Industries (Holdings). The business relationships between the new members are sparking fears of a ?boys? club? within Exco since relinquishing directorships is not a prerequisite for members. Hong Kong Jockey Club chairman Ronald Arculli, for instance, was a barrister at Woo Kwan Lee & Lo. The firm is co-founded by Charles Lee Yeh-kwong, another new member and the independent non-executive chairman of the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing. Mr Lee said he severed all his directorship ties in listed companies before the handover eight years ago. Both Mr Arculli and Mr Li are independent non-executive directors of the SCMP Group, which publishes the South China Morning Post. Mr Arculli and another new member, Marvin Cheung Kin-tung, are also independent non-executive directors of listed hotel and property group HKR International, which develops Discovery Bay. Mr Arculli has strong real estate links through directorships with companies like Hang Lung Properties and Sino Land, which is bidding for the West Kowloon Cultural District. He stressed he would not read Exco papers or express opinions on the mega project to avoid any conflict of interest. Henry Fan Hung-ling is managing director of Citic Pacific, which has interests in the Eastern Harbour Tunnel and Western Harbour Crossing that recently increased tolls. ?To ensure there is no conflict of interest, I will excuse myself from meetings and not review documents on the company?s business interest,? Mr Fan said. City University associate professor of applied social studies Leung Kwan-kwok noted the new Exco additions may tend to concentrate the membership towards the financial services sector but stressed that the council remains an advisory body and should pool its resources based on experience. ?There?s bound to be some conflicts of interest. Just look at former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa. When he took office, the public was concerned about his significant business ties. I think what is more important is that the interests are fully disclosed,? Mr Leung said. But Herbert Hui Ho-ming, chairman of the Hong Kong Institute of Directors, said their business expertise and connections are what make the new members attractive to Exco. Demanding that they give up their directorships negates the reason why they were selected in the first place.